Monday, July 27, 2009

The Laugh Lies Down On Broadway

Last week while chatting with a friend in the book industry, she mentioned a novel that was the very first one in which she laughed out loud. Not a book that she found amusing, but rather a book that actually made her laugh. Out. Loud.

She said the first book that made her laugh out loud was Christopher Moore's Lamb.

She then posed the question. What was the first book that made you laugh out loud?

I had to think for a while on that one.

And, interestingly, I came up with three different authors. I actually started with the most recent novel that made me laugh out loud, then back-tracked to a series of novels that did it to me. Then, I finally landed on what I believe was the first novel that actually had that effect on me.

So, the first novel that came to my mind was the Terry Fallis novel The Best Laid Plans. This is likely because that was the last novel I read that made me laugh out loud. Fallis really had to win me over on this one, too, since the novel involves Canadian Politics, a subject area I'd always found rather dry and uninteresting. so, working against my prejudices, Fallis really landed a homer with me, because he not only made it interesting, but he had me cracking up throughout this wonderful book. But he didn't just rely on the laughs, because while he was making me snort and giggle, he was planting seeds for a deeper, touching story that resonated. And without me paying attention to it, I also learned something about our Canadian political system.

Prior to that, the first Linwood Barclay novel that I picked up, Bad Guys, had me giggling between moments of tension. And since Bad Guys was the second book in Barclay's humorous mysteries about Zack Walker, I went back to read Bad Move, the first book in the series, and ended up enjoying the final two books in the Zack Walker series, Lone Wolf and Stone Rain. Interestly enough, Barclay's original working title for the 3rd Zack Walker book was going to be "Bad Dogs" -- however, his editor convinced him he didn't "own" the word "Bad" and suggested he change the title for the third book. By the time the fourth book was released, Barclay not only proved his ability to pen a hilarious novel, but also demonstrated his proficiency for writing tight and thrilling mystery novels. (His next two novels, while not funnybone ticklers, were still fantastic thrillers)

Which takes me back to what I believe is the very first book that made me laugh out loud. That would have to be John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany. Like the novels I mentioned above, this wonderful book by Irving was the very first Irving book I read. It had been recommended to me by a fellow bookseller who told me it was by far the best novel he had ever read. High praise indeed. And once I cracked the cover and started reading, I knew what he meant, because it sits in my mind as one of the best and my favourites. Reading this novel was one of the first times I remember stopping repeatedly to re-read short passages to my wife (a commonality of each of the books I mention in this blog post) and one of the first times I can remember a novel having that "laugh out loud" effect on me. Interestingly, the humour in this one was mixed with a poignancy that I also cherished.

Interestingly enough, each of these authors has forthcoming books that I simply cannot wait to dig into. And not because I anticipate laughs in all cases. I'm eager to read their next novels because the authors simply never fail to move me in some significant way when I read their words.

So -- what was the first novel that you read that made YOU laugh out loud?


Terry Fallis said...

Thanks for your always generous support Mark. Hope you're well.


lime said...

good question. i'm not sure i can remember. but i do recall discovering bill bryson. ok, not novels but his travelogues just cracked me up.

i love the movie simon birch, which is based on a prayer for owen meaney. that book has been on my "to read" list for a long time now.

word veri: unitypen...i like it.

Mark Leslie said...

Yes, Lime, do read Irving's book - it's even better than that excellent movie. (And man, you always get the coolest word veri's)

Terry - when I recommend your book to people I'm doing THEM a favour. (And I'm sure you noticed I didn't pressure you about wondering when your next book is coming out - I'm really holding myself back here)