Five Favorites is a special feature at the LA Books Examiner in which our favorite authors share and discuss their five favorite books within a category. In this edition, suspense writer PI Barrington, author of Crucifying Angel and her newest book Miraculous Deception which will be released on June 1st, discusses her five favorite funny books.
Five Favorite Funny Books by PI Barrington
Okay, forget that I read Aristophanes’ The Clouds. Forget that I read Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. Forget…oh, forget everything. I already have. I thought I’d do something a little more divergent from the usual highbrow, high-quality favorites that most accomplished writers list here on Five Favorites. I’m going to list my five favorite humorous books as lowbrow and pandering to belly laughs as they may be.
Now, I’m not saying that the classics aren’t funny. They are in a snickering, sniggering sort of way. But those books that make you laugh so hard tears literally spring forth from your eyes (and onto unsuspecting others nearby)? Those are classics in their own right and in their own way. So are you ready Underlings—Oops, I mean Groundlings? Away we go!
1) The Happy Sadist, Robert Newton Peck (1962)
Okay, first of all, me pass up a title like that? In the laws of known physics that is impossible. I first found this gem in a thrift store and of course was completely enchanted with the title (as well as excited and titillated to say the least). From the opening paragraph to the last page I cried with laughter like the bi-polar/schizoid personality I was destined to become. This is a mockery of modern society and its values which have been embraced in all their ridiculousness. Covering everything from money and success to high school life to s-e-x Peck is spot on with the utter absurdity of it all. And he’s really good with imagery too: “…sex with her was the equivalent of a six month car wax…” to paraphrase a bit.
That’s not to say this is a raunchy piece of literature, in fact, it’s the opposite. Peck finesses those scenes with such deft hilarity that that in itself is hilarious. (Let me interject here that it can be a little…oh, what’s that term? Politically Incorrect but then it was 1962) This book is just one of Robert Newton Peck’s works but definitely worth the read if you find yourself haunting thrift stores or meandering online. The last I heard, Peck was dealing with some serious health issues, I wish him and his family the best.
2) The Princess Bride, William Goldman (1973)
Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice and I’m a sucker for a suggestive blurb. Once again I was hooked by the line on the cover of this book which billed itself as “A hot fairy tale.” By the time I got to the check stand of the grocery store I knew I had to have it. By the time Sister Mary Angela (God rest that saint’s beautiful soul) stopped and asked me what was wrong “young lady” and why I was laughing out loud, I was in riotous tears again and ignoring my beloved history class; a first in my academic life.
Goldman is a master storyteller in any case but this was my first experience with him and I lapped up this book up like a virgin fly introduced to its first potato salad at an Idaho picnic.
He presents the story of a boy and his grandfather who tells the story within a story of Wesley, his beloved Buttercup and two insanely inept but quickly adorable sidekicks Fezzik and Inigo Montoya (remember that name, there will not be a quiz) who all have their own grudges against the evil Prince Humperdinck (reminiscent of Shrek 1 for those of you under twenty) who is trying to start a war between the fictional lands of Guilder and Florin and nab Buttercup as an unwilling bride. While it may not be as “hot” as described, the story yanks you up like a meat hook and you’re left gasping for breath with every other line. While I’m mentioning important things to watch for, (ROUS, Cliffs of Insanity, and the Dread Pirate Roberts,) also look for signature lines such as “Dawn in the Mountains” a little known one but in my humble opinion a great one.
My only regret? That the movie, so well directed by Rob Reiner, was forced to leave out one of my absolute favorite small scenes in TPB: the most poisonous spider in the world. A masterpiece by any standards.
3) Bored of the Rings, Henry N. Beard and Douglas C. Kenney (1969)
I suspect, not sure mind you, but I suspect this book started me off on my journey to publication by teaching me the way of the Elves of Sarcasm and Parody and leading to my first short stories being published. Yes, they were tongue in cheek and I’m certain BOTR had something to do with that.
In my opinion, nothing is sacred, not even science fiction and fantasy and this book went a long way in proving that theory correct. Now, Trekkies, Elves, Dwarves, Darth Whatevers, Wizards and Dragons can laugh at themselves; many times even before others do.
To read the rest of PI Barrington’s Five Favorite Funny books, visit Frank Mundo’s LA Books Examiner.