|I think "comic novelist" is a fine and lovely term. Who do you consider to be female "comic novelist"s, Griff? I would be interested to know. Is Helen Fielding a "comic novelist" or a "chicklit writer"?|
Yes I think comic novelist is a fabulous term, and it's something I would be very proud to be one day. I have some very specific plans for writing some - now is not the time, as I'm busy trying out scripted comedy options - but one day I am definitely going to write the funniest book ever about highwaymen, for example.
My favourite books are by "old-fashioned" comic novelists - P.G. Wodehouse, George Macdonald Fraser, Evelyn Waugh, Stephen Fry, Alan Bennett (OK not novels but...) and to a lesser extent the likes of Terry Pratchett. I'm slowly beginning to appreciate a lot of the recent American comic writers too such as David Sedaris. And I love a lot of US "comic non-fiction" like William Goldman's Hollywood memoirs or the ramblings of P.J.O'Rourke and Hunter S.Thompson.
It's always quite an eye-opener to see who wins the P.G.Wodehouse prize for best comic novel. Looking down the list of recent winners:
2006 - All Fun And Games Until Someone Loses An Eye, Christopher Brookmyre
2005 - A Short History of Tractors In Ukrainian, Marina Lewycka
2004 - The Well Of Lost Plots, Jasper Fforde
2003 - Vernon God Little, DBC Pierre
2002 - Spies, Michael Frayn
2001 - The Rotters Club, Johnathan Coe
2000 - The Mighty Waltzer, Howard Jacobson
There's a lot of writers on there I wouldn't immediately have tagged as comic novelists, Brookmyre most of all.
Also I guess that makes Marina Lewycka officially
a successful female comic novelist.
What's the difference between a comic novel and chick lit ? I'm not best placed to answer that.
I would have guessed that perhaps the level of emphasis between the romance and comedy aspects.
I don't read chick-lit but a lot of it seems to me like the print equivalent of rom-com movies, although I appreciate that many books tagged as chick-lit probably tackle female issues far more deeply than Nora Ephron or Richard Curtis.
But yes, there's probably a level of unfairness when a male writer like David Nicholls comes out with Starter For Ten
which is clearly a romantic comedy for blokes (although apparently very good) and gets a nice highbrow designation like "comic novelist", while Helen Fielding (clearly hilarious and brilliant) gets filed as chicklit.
(thinks some more) It doesn't always work like that for male writers though. I'm glad to see that tripe-merchants like Nick Hornby, Mike Gayle and Matt Beaumont are given the suitably dismissive title of "lad lit" rather than "comic novelist" which they clearly don't deserve.