Feeling Bookish: The Laughter Club

Written By

Ushasi Sen Basu

Feeling Bookish: The Laughter Club Loading

There is nothing I love and admire more in an author than the ability to invoke huge belly laughs in his/her readers. In my mind a great book is one that gives you the itch to return to it; especially whenever real life seems a little disappointing or downright awful. These books do not carry the social responsibility of mirroring society accurately; I don’t know why one would want to — grim and ugly thing that it often is. Unlike some of P.G. Wodehouse’s critics who complained that his writing was “not realistic” (I mean DUH!), or those who whined that Helen Fielding portrayed Bridget Jones as ditsy and silly instead of a woman of substance who strode through life meeting all her goals (Snorezzzz…); I would like to fall at their feet and thank these people for reminding me that even the most mortifying embarrassment can be turned into a story to be told to howls of sympathetic laughter, and that man is a smidge above his fellow-animals only because of his ability to laugh.

Instead of telling you what I thought of these books (always a pleasurable way to pass the time for me, but one must make sacrifices), I thought I’d leaf through these much-thumbed books and share with you some of their most hilarious paragraphs by way of explanation. (Okay, okay I just googled for these quotes, but I promise I’ve read all of them in their proper contexts within books, at some point in my life):

P.G. Wodehouse writes, in My Man Jeeves:

“What ho!” I said.
“What ho!” said Motty.
“What ho! What ho!”
“What ho! What ho! What ho!”
After that it seemed rather difficult to go on with the conversation.”

And in (I think) Thank You, Jeeves:

“Feminine psychology is admittedly odd, sir. The poet Pope…”
“Never mind about the poet Pope, Jeeves.”
“No, sir.”
“There are times when one wants to hear all about the poet Pope and times when one doesn’t.”
“Very true, sir.”

If neither of those excerpts made you laugh then you’re a wet sock, madam.

Bill Bryson, whom I adore so much that none of the quotes I found did him justice:

 “There are three stages in scientific discovery. First, people deny that it is true, then they deny that it is important; finally they credit the wrong person.”
―  A Short History of Nearly Everything

I deeply identify with this quote from Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals. (Which of his family is your favourite? I think mine is Mother):

“It’s all your fault, Mother,’ said Larry austerely; ‘you shouldn’t have brought us up to be so selfish.’ ‘I like that!’ exclaimed Mother. ‘I never did anything of the sort!’ ‘Well, we didn’t get as selfish as this without some guidance,’ said Larry.”

Then there’s the more obvious humour of Helen Fielding:

“It struck me as pretty ridiculous to be called Mr. Darcy and to stand on your own looking snooty at a party. It’s like being called Heathcliff and insisting on spending the entire evening in the garden, shouting “Cathy” and banging your head against a tree.”
―  Bridget Jones’s Diary

Sue Townsend created someone brilliant with the teenage Adrian Mole and his deadpan observations:

“Nigel is a punk at weekends. His mother lets him be one providing he wears a string vest under his bondage T-shirt.”

Then there’s the eternal favourite Jerome K. Jerome, read and loved by many generations of Indians (among others):

“I can’t sit still and see another man slaving and working. I want to get up and superintend, and walk round with my hands in my pockets, and tell him what to do. It is my energetic nature. I can’t help it.” — Three Men in a Boat

Really love his Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow, too. It reads exactly like a blog, though regrettably not of anyone I know.

This passage from James Herriot’s Vets Might Fly, I actually typed out from his book, I enjoyed it so much. On seeing his baby son for the first time:

‘My God!’ I exclaimed.
The nurse looked at me, startled. ‘What’s the matter?’
‘Well, he’s a funny-looking little thing, isn’t he?’
‘What!’ She stared at me furiously. ‘Mr. Herriot how can you say such a thing? He’s a beautiful baby!’
I peered into the cot again. Jimmy greeted me with a lop-sided leer, turned purple and blew a few bubbles.
‘Are you sure he’s all right?’ I said.

The scintillating Terry Pratchett who’s incisive commentary on the inhabitants of Discworld is far from fantasy:

“Ankh-Morpork! Pearl of cities! This is not a completely accurate description, of course — it was not round and shiny — but even its worst enemies would agree that if you had to liken Ankh-Morpork to anything, then it might as well be a piece of rubbish covered with the diseased secretions of a dying mollusc.”
―  The Light Fantastic

I shall leave you on that appetizing note. I hope I’ve piqued your interest enough for you to try the authors in this list you haven’t read already. Do leave your own recommendations in the comments section!




Ushasi Sen Basu, 37, lives in Bangalore and is the erstwhile Editor-in-Chief of SiyaWoman.com. She published her debut contemporary literary fiction novel, 'Kathputli’ in early 2017, in both Kindle and paperback formats. Ushasi has been a professional writer and editor for over a decade. She also has an unpopular blog called The Crib that pokes fun at everything, including herself. Ushasi (aka Shashi, "U" and 'You-Over-There') loves literature and music, and dances like nobody’s watching. She is the mother of a five-year-old girl, who is the joy of her life and grudging guinea pig for many of her parenting experiments.

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