The Blue Bookcase. If you're interested in participating, check out their very smart blog!
This week's question is "Can literature be funny? What's your favorite humorous literature?" While my answer is a resounding YES, which I will get to in a minute, I'm more curious at the moment about the question, because I think that at the heart of it lies the reason that many people are turned off by literary works and find the people who read and talk about them pretentious. Do we really take ourselves so seriously as a community that we have to ask whether it is OK to laugh at what we read? Must we be immersed in grave, serious subject matter all the time for it to be worthwhile? If one aspect of literary merit is the use of language, doesn't it take just as much skill to write a witty turn of phrase as a serious one? And if another aspect of literary merit is what the work says about the human condition, then sometimes laughing at ourselves is the best way to do that.
From the above mini-rant you can probably guess that I believe that literary works can be humorous. As for examples, let me start with William Shakespeare. Even in his tragedies he often had humorous characters. Then there is Pride and Prejudice and Emma, by literary darling Jane Austen. Mark Twain also used humor to his advantage, not just in his books but in the way he talked about his life and his writing. Considering that my definition of literary includes some genre fiction, I'd also include Douglas Addams of the Hitchhikers Guide series and Neil Gaiman examples of literary authors using humor. Roald Dahl is hilarious!
Lighten up, people!