his marriage, famed novelist Sandy Mulligan
flees Brooklyn and returns to his midwestern
roots in Michigan, where the full trauma of his
wretched transgressions induces writer’s block
and spawns hilariously snippy jousting matches with his
infuriated agent and editor.
Sandy finds refuge in the local library, where he becomes
intrigued with John Salteau,
a Native American storyteller performing tales about
the trickster Nanabozho.
Kat is also entranced. A dangerously sexy,
whip-smart, underestimated reporter for a
floundering Chicago newspaper who conceals
her Native American ethnicity and deepest anarchistic tendencies, she is brashly defying her
angry boss to pursue a tip that Salteau is an
imposter with ties to a nearby Chippewa-run
casino. As these three clever, destructive fugitives converge, hilariously caustic banter and
raging inner monologues ensue, while rising
suspense veers hard into violence. Generating
psychological and cultural insights as bright
and stinging as a welder’s sparks, Sorrentino
blasts insidious commercialism and corruption,
digital narcosis, and the failures of the book and
newspaper worlds, while detonating hollow
notions of authenticity, ethics, and freedom.
A mischievously funny, keenly incisive, and
mind-bending outlaw tale. —Donna Seaman
By John Colapinto.
Apr. 2016. 416p. Soft Skull, paper, $15.95 (9781593766429).
New Yorker staff writer and award-winning
author Colapinto’s darkly witty and sordidly
satirical tale features upstanding Jasper Ulrick-son, a mystery writer enjoying modest success
with a cozy series featuring a blind detective,
away best-seller, propelling him to the set of
a smarmy, megapopular TV talk show, which
brings him to the warped attention of a sociopath. Dez’s lust for teenage girls has destroyed
his legal and teaching careers. Holed up in a
rotting trailer with beautiful, young, orphaned
Chloe, he concocts a diabolical plan to shame
and annihilate the heroically kind Jasper. As
his detestable villain orchestrates X-rated, Job-like agonies for gentle Jasper, Colapinto, with
sardonic zest and mesmerizing intensity, cracks
open the underworlds of sexual predation and
incest. Cannily over the top in its comic depravity and magnetizing in its sympathy, Colapinto’s
battle royal of innocence and evil, blindness and
illumination, betrayal and love will thrill those
who enjoy subversively erotic and suspenseful
fiction of the finest execution and most cutting
implications. —Donna Seaman
Booklist reviewers found much to laugh about, however painfully, in the short story collections and novels listed below, tales
reviewed in the past year that audaciously or affectionately or wickedly skewer family life, love, age, trauma, social conventions, and
cultural divides with wit, irony, empathy, and an appreciation for
absurdity. —Donna Seaman
American Housewife. By Helen Ellis. 2016. Doubleday, $24
Ellis’ short stories about women under pressure are archly, acerbically, and surreally
hilarious as she takes down the entire housewife concept with a sniper’s precision in
revved-up, sometimes macabre tales of ruined marriages, illness, lingerie, reality TV,
ghosts, even murder.
Avenue of Mysteries. By John Irving. 2015. Simon & Schuster, $28 (9781451664164).
Irving revitalizes his signature fascinations in this funny, wildly imaginative, tender, and
mystical novel about famed writer Juan Diego, who looks back on the mysteries and revelations of his life, beginning with his impoverished childhood in Oaxaca, Mexico.
Crow Fair. By Thomas McGuane. 2015. Knopf, $25.95 (9780385350198).
Montana writer McGuane’s stories combine ironic gleefulness with dark humor as he
delves into the crazier aspects of marriage, family, convention, dreams, and life itself.
Disgruntled. By Asali Solomon. 2015. Farrar, $26 (9780374140342).
In Solomon’s bold, many-faceted coming-of-age tale, preternaturally observant and mordantly amusing Kenya is teased mercilessly by her Philadelphia classmates for her black
anarchist family’s odd ways, yet they don’t know the half of it.
Fear of Dying. By Erica Jong. 2015. St. Martin’s, $26.99 (9781250065919); e-book,
Vanessa, an irreverent sexpot turning 60, is flashy, flip, canny, and riotous as she
copes with matters of age and illness, online dating, and the entire “sea of lunacy” in
which we flail.
The Making of Zombie Wars. By Aleksandar Hemon. 2015. Farrar, $26 (9780374203412).
Hemon unleashes his droll comedic powers in this tale of a Chicago ESL teacher who
is writing a zombie screenplay to sublimate his anxiety over his child-psychologist girlfriend, PTSD-stricken landlord, and a quartet of war-haunted Bosnian immigrants.
Man at the Helm. By Nina Stibbe. 2015. Little, Brown, $25 (9780316286671); e-book,
In Stibbe’s charming and funny debut, nine-year-old Lizzie, her mother, and sister are
forced out of London after her father has an affair and into a small English village where
they are shunned for lacking a “man at the helm.”
The Rosie Effect. By Graeme Simsion. 2015. Simon & Schuster, $25 (9781476767314).
Simsion continues the story of quirky genetics professor Don Tillman, introduced in his
best-selling The Rosie Project (2013), as he becomes a father in this warmly humorous
celebration of human variety.
The State We’re In: Maine Stories. By Ann Beattie. 2015. Scribner, $25 (9781501107818).
A brilliantly comic literary writer, Beattie orchestrates laugh-out-loud situations and skirmishing dialogue in these Maine-set stories of characters dealing with troubled families,
lovers, neighbors, pets, even the IRS.
The Unfortunate Importance of Beauty. By Amanda Filipacchi. 2015. Norton, $25.95
Filipacchi offers an astute, piercing look at our obsession with appearance in this witty
farce about five artistic friends known as the Knights of Creation who are caught up in
dire predicaments that reveal much about human nature.
TOP 10 HUMOROUS NOVELS