Criticism & Features

NBCC Reads

Cynthia Ozick’s Favorite Comic Novel

By Cynthia Ozick

Critical Mass readers will know we are now in our fourth year of “NBCC Reads.” This survey allows us to draw on the bookish expertise of our membership, along with former NBCC winners and finalists. This spring's question: What's your favorite comic novel? was inspired by this past year's awards in fiction– NBCC fiction award winner Jennifer Egan's at-times hilarious A Visit from the Goon Squad (which also won this year's Pulitzer and the Los Angeles Times book award in fiction) and Irish writer Paul Murray's darkly comic Skippy Dies, an NBCC fiction finalist. We heard from more than 100 of you (thanks!). We do not tabulate votes or rank the titles under discussion. Instead, we simply give an idea of the authors or particular titles that seem to be tickling out collective fancy. Here's the first of the series, and the most noted comic novel of the lot, Joseph Heller's Catch-22, first published in 1961. (We're including worthy second choices, as well.) Other favorites so far:  Vladimir Nabokov, Evelyn Waugh, Richard Russo's “Straight Man,” Kingsley Amis's “Lucky Jim,” two by Flann O'Brien,  “Oldies but Goodies” like Henry Fielding's “Tom Jones” and Jane Austen's “Pride and Prejudice,” plus Charles Portis. Today's posting is one of our “Long Tail” entries.


Cynthia Ozick:

“Of comic novels that have quaffed the elixir of 'classic:' Zuleika Dobson, by Max Beerbohm. Of novels contemporary (this one very!): The Finkler Question, by Howard Jacobson.”

Cynthia Ozick is a highly acclaimed short story writer, novelist and essayist. She was shortlisted for the 2005 Man Booker International Prize. In 2008, Ozick was awarded the PEN/Malamud Award for excellence in the art of the short story. Her book of essays, Quarrel & Quandary, won the National Book Critics Circle award for criticism. Ozick has also been a multiple finalist for NBCC awards in fiction and criticism. Her audacious and intricately crafted sixth novel, Foreign Bodies (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010), is a reframing of Henry James’s The Ambassadors.