But what most delighted me to find on list was, of all things, a little comedy which I first read after my wife, who had had it assigned to her in an English course at the University of Detroit, complained to me that neither she nor the rest of the class understood. So I borrowed it immediately. Five pages in I was laughing so hard I was, as the cliche insists, crying. Or hurting, as both adjectives are suggested by like cliches. The book, which by one of those strange intersections of time and circumstance I just happen to be rereading just now, is Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis.
It really is very funny in its very English way. There are passages which until yet I laugh at for so long and so hard that I have to stop reading for minutes at a time. Then I have trouble getting back to the text because the funniest moments just keep coming back to me. Yes, it is that good. That is, if you like dry, droll, yet still somehow over the top English humor.
And you should, you know. The English have a delightful way of melding sublime understatement, surreal juxtaposition, and outlandish slapstick in hilariously satisfying ways. A wonderful example from Lucky Jim is a passage where an absent minded driver comes near to a head on collision with a bus. His passenger, the actual lucky Jim, describes the incident in harrowing comedic detail, finishing with a description of the obviously excited and screeching bus driver, "...his mouth opening and shutting vigorously.' I'm chuckling at it still.
The closest American approximations are the Marx Brothers and, believe it or not, Bob Newhart. The English, they know humor. Americans should get to know English humor better too.
And I'm not talking Benny Hill either, you walking primates out there.