Criticism & Features

NBCC Reads

Favorite Comic Novel? Two for “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”

By Jane Ciabattari

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.

Rob Spilman:

'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy,” by Douglas Adams. The consistently hilarious series of novels is deadpan funny from the opening destruction of the earth.”

Chris Barsanti:

“My selection for favorite comic novel is “The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams, which blows up the Earth just as a warm-up. With a style that's been so desperately mimicked by too many mock-fantasists to count, Adams's novel is simultaneously rife with gut-punch jokes and philosopher-quality head-scratchers, all of it thoroughly basted in a classically Wodehouse-ian sense of dry British haplessness.”