Please introduce me to the best books about tricksters, clowns, or mischief makers.
April 12, 2009 10:43 PM   Subscribe

What are some great books about tricksters or clowns?

To give this some context, I recently saw Emily Levine's trickster talk on TED (wonderful but occasionally preachy). I've reserved a copy of Trickster Makes This World from the library, and I am fond of Mulla Nasreddin stories. But I don't know where to go from here.
posted by theiconoclast31 to Media & Arts (17 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
American Indian Trickster Tales was on the required reading list for a course I took that was called something like (North American) Native American Religious Traditions.
posted by salvia at 10:53 PM on April 12, 2009

I got caught up recently reading about the original Hanlon-Lees, which is an excerpt from the book Clowns: A Panoramic History of Fools and Jesters, Medieval Mimes, Jongleurs and Minstrels, Pueblo Indian Delight Makers and Cheyenne Contraries, Harlequins and Pierrots, Theatrical Buffoons, etc. by John H. Towsen. [linked to softcover because it has a picture; looks like there are cheaper copies available in hardcover.] Looks like a good read.
posted by carsonb at 11:07 PM on April 12, 2009

posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 11:15 PM on April 12, 2009

Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys is a much more adult look at trickster folklore, and very very neat.
posted by fuzzbean at 11:31 PM on April 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

And this issue of Re/Search: Pranks.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 11:32 PM on April 12, 2009

Try W.P. Kinsella's trickster stories based in the fictional Ermineskin reservation. The Fencepost Chronicles is pretty good, as is Dance Me Outside.

Seconding Anansi Boys.
posted by benzenedream at 11:54 PM on April 12, 2009

It's not an academic work, but you might enjoy reading Kij Johnson's excellent Hugo- and Nebula-nominated short story The Evolution of Trickster Stories Among the Dogs of North Park After the Change.
posted by Ian A.T. at 12:00 AM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

You might be interested in Laurie King's To Play the Fool. There's an extract linked from that page. It's a detective novel with a discussion of the concept of fools; includes some academic-type stuff about it, which I think is fictional, but still interesting.
posted by paduasoy at 12:04 AM on April 13, 2009

Speaking of Neil Gaiman, the seminal trickster Loki makes key appearances in two books in the Sandman series - Season of Mists and The Kindly Ones. I wouldn't recommend reading the Sandman books out of order, though, and it's a fairly big commitment to dive in all the way (there are ten books in the main series, plus assorted add-on works). But I liked these books quite a bit, and I liked Gaiman's take on Loki.
posted by DavidNYC at 12:04 AM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Interesting to come across this question-- I've just been reading Laurie King's Kate Martinelli book To Play the Fool, which features a "holy fool" as a key character, and goes into historical and literary descriptions of Tricksters, Jesters and Fools.
posted by nax at 4:39 AM on April 13, 2009

Christopher Moore's Coyote Blue is a great tale about a man whose life is invaded by a trickster spirit.
posted by waraw at 6:42 AM on April 13, 2009

Thirding Anansi Boys, epecially Lenny Henry's unabridged reading.
posted by spasm at 6:47 AM on April 13, 2009

Learned Pigs & Fireproof Women
posted by R. Mutt at 7:08 AM on April 13, 2009

For real life tricksters you could read Museum of Hoaxes

Also, The Life and Times of Grigory Rasputin
posted by ian1977 at 7:15 AM on April 13, 2009

Oh, speaking of Anansi Boys, Loki was a key character in American Gods as well wasn't he?
posted by ian1977 at 7:21 AM on April 13, 2009

Till Eulenspiegel

There was also a pair of Turkish masons who used to bring construction work to a halt because their patter was so side splitting. Senile dementia makes their names elusive to me just now, but they are a standard folk tradition, should be easy to track down (assuming no one here knows who I'm talking about).

Not sure if he' out of your definitions, but Cagliostro comes to mind, and this appears to be the lastest and greatest on him. Claims that he believed himself, but who can say?

Despite the title, Trickster Travels is likely not what you are looking for - but is a good read regardless.
posted by IndigoJones at 8:01 AM on April 13, 2009

More fiction suggestions:

Christopher Moore's Fool is a telling of King Lear in which the fool is the main character and driving force. Pocket's not a mythical trickster, but he certainly fits the bill.

Coyote makes an appearance in several of Charles de Lint's short stories, though I'm not sure which ones right now. I've read The Ivory and the Horn and Dreams Underfoot, so I know there are a couple in those two collections.

And in trying to figure that out, I came across Coyote Road, a YA collection of trickster stories, including one from de Lint.
posted by natabat at 8:51 AM on April 13, 2009

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