Here’s how funny it is: It’s funnier than A Confederacy of Dunces. It’s funnier than Money or Lucky Jim. It’s funnier than any of the product that any of your modern literary LOL-traffickers (your Lipsytes, your Shteyngarts) have put on the street. It beats Shalom Auslander to a bloody, chuckling pulp with his own funny-bone. And it is, let me tell you, immeasurably funnier than however funny you insist on finding Fifty Shades of Grey.
“The first time I read it, I was in school, and I remember being confounded by two facts: 1) That it was originally published in 1941 and 2) That it first appeared in Irish as An Béal Bocht. Andif there was one thing that was less funny than anything written before, say, 1975, it was anything that was written in Irish.”
Chances are you’ve heard that in a recent interview, Claire Messud responded to a patronizing question about one of her characters — “I wouldn’t want to be friends with Nora, would you?” — by giving her interviewer a smackdown that resonated across the blogosphere. At Page-Turner, several authors (including Rivka Galchen, Jonathan Franzen and Year in Reading alumna Margaret Atwood) offer their own takes on the matter of “likeability.” (There’s also this piece by our own Emily St. John Mandel to consider.)
There may be readers who will — on discovering that A Questionable Shape combines a quest, a romance, humor, and an epidemic of zombies, with philosophy, footnotes, history, science, the arts, half of Daniel Webster, cascades of lyricism and truckloads of realism — refuse to so much as open the back cover. I wish they would rethink their decision.