Funny But Not Entirely Foolish Novels

Since today is April Fool’s Day, I thought it appropriate to inject a bit of humor into the week by recommending some humorous novels. I chose vintage bestsellers that are funny but not silly.

Statue of fool on building in  Ghent, Belgium
The Fool atop building in Gent, Belgium

One of my favorite light novels is Kitty Foyle by Christopher Morley. Kitty is a dutiful Irish Catholic girl who has the misfortune to fall in love with a Main Line Pennsylvania boy who cares less for her than she does for him.

The story is an old one. Morley gives it sparkle by giving Kitty a quick brain, loyal heart, and sharp repartee. Life isn’t easy for Kitty, but she punches it full of wisecracks.

The Letters of a Self-Made Merchant to His Son by George Horace Lorimer is a series of letters supposedly written by a well-to-do owner of a commercial slaughterhouse operation to his son and heir from the time he goes off to Harvard until he announces his engagement.

John Grahman wouldn’t stoop to wisecracks, but he illustrates his advice with personal stories that reveal a sense of humor as keen as his powers of observation. Though droll stories, Mr. Grahman leaves no doubt what he expects of his expensively-educated offspring.

Mrs. ’Arris Goes to Paris by Paul Gallico is the story of a London charwoman who makes up her mind to have a Dior evening gown like the one she saw in an employer’s closet.

The plucky woman saves the money for the trip and the gown only to be confronted with a new set of obstacles in Paris.

Mrs. ’Arris calls forth chuckles but she inspires admiration, too, not just for her determination, but also for her essential goodness.

Photo credit: The Fool uploaded by Ulrick at FreeImages.

1903’s Best Novels None Too Good

Although the bestsellers of 1903 include some good stories and some intriguing detail, none of the novels is literature. Most are not even novels you’d seek out for a second reading.

With the exception of Owen Wister’s The Virginian, each seems to be very much a novel of its era. It’s hard to imagine any of the 10 becoming a bestseller even a decade later.

Lady Rose’s Daughter by Mrs. Humphrey Ward was arresting enough while I was reading it, but within a few weeks I’d forgotten all but the broad outline of the story.  The same was true of The Pit, by Frank Norris, and The Letters of a Self-Made Merchant to his Son, by George Horace Lorimer.

Unfortunately, those three are so much better than the others from 1903, that I have to chose them as my top picks.

© 2013 Linda Gorton Aragoni