Book Suggestions for Casanova/Rabelais/Nabokov Reader
November 25, 2015 5:02 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for book suggestions for my partner. He enjoys the historical and comical nature of Rabelais and Casanova's memoir. He also enjoys the style/ambition of Vladimir Nabokov.

He liked Rabelais/Casanova for featuring bunglers, con artists, smug people, and goofs. Both works consistently made him laugh out loud. He enjoyed Rabelais for its absurdity/satirical nature.

His interest in Nabokov is harder for me to pin down, but I welcome suggestions of similar authors.
posted by kiki_s to Media & Arts (19 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I've only read Nabokov of those. But for fiction I'd say Dictionary of the Khazars by Milorad Pavic. And in the spirit of "Speak Memory," I'd go for "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" or most anything by Rebecca Solnit.
posted by mermaidcafe at 5:47 PM on November 25, 2015

Best answer: Don Quixote or Tristram Shandy.
posted by lewedswiver at 6:03 PM on November 25, 2015

Best answer: A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
Candide by Voltaire
Don Juan by Lord Byron (book-length poem, but very cool)
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift

The latter two are terrific satires that are often incorrectly categorized as books for children.
posted by FencingGal at 6:34 PM on November 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Baudolino by Umberto Eco?
posted by Segundus at 6:49 PM on November 25, 2015

Best answer: The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt hit me in that Nabokov spot. Like Nabokov's appeal, the resemblance is hard to pin down exactly -- she doesn't build her house on PURE RAW PROSE the way he does. But the book had something of Pale Fire's biting academic satire, and Bend Sinister's hidden grief, and The Luzhin Defense's unfakeable chops at the skill the book is about.

If he's open to SFF, The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch is about bunglers, con artists, smug people, and goofs, and does not stint on the portions, especially with regard to the smug people.

There's a pair of short novels by Italo Calvino, The Nonexistent Knight and The Cloven Viscount, that are sold in one volume -- very strange, dark, cryptic, outré, hilarious fairy tales about chivalry. Stylishly written and absurd, and recommended to fans of the Zembla parts of Pale Fire.
posted by thesmallmachine at 7:29 PM on November 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The Sot-Weed Factor by John Barth
Mason&Dixon by Thomas Pynchon
Cards of Identity by Nigel Dennis

all three are finely crafted, very funny.
posted by OHenryPacey at 7:53 PM on November 25, 2015

Best answer: Kyril Bonfiglioli. His books are full of scoundrels improbably and undeservingly getting out of scrapes, and his style has some of the darkness of Nabokov.
posted by Jasper Fnorde at 8:10 PM on November 25, 2015

Best answer: Master & Margarita?
posted by vunder at 8:42 PM on November 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Ferdydurke

Seconding The Sot-Weed Factor

The Malayan Trilogy
posted by Joseph Gurl at 9:37 PM on November 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Master & Margarita is a great choice. Some other random thoughts would pretty much anything Wodehouse.

These recommendations are also universal.
posted by General Malaise at 9:43 PM on November 25, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks for the responses. You've all pin-pointed his tastes. In fact, he's already read and immensely enjoyed Wodehouse and Eco's Baudolino (which I nonetheless marked as best answer for accurately reflecting my criteria).

I am most inclined towards purchasing The Sot-Weed Factor and the Nonexistent Knight/Cloven Viscount, which will appeal to his interest in epic novels and fairy tales, respectively. I'll also consider Master and Margarita.

Big thanks for all the novel suggestions in the public domain (Lawrence Stern, John Kennedy, Voltaire, Lord Bryon, Jonathan Swift). I'll be downloading those on his Kindle as an added treat.
posted by kiki_s at 12:13 AM on November 26, 2015

Best answer: David Madsen: Confessions of a Flesh-Eater (not historical) and Memoirs of a Gnostic Dwarf (historical). Bawdy, scatological, absurd, very funny, memorable characters and excellent writing.
posted by inire at 12:16 AM on November 26, 2015

Best answer: Sounds like he enjoys authors with the extravagant imagination of a genre writer and the gorgeous prose of a more traditional literary author, topped off with a sense of humor. That happens to be my own particular sweet spot! A few authors in that category:

• Michael Chabon (especially The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier And Clay)
• Ned Beaumon (Boxer Beatle)
• Lev Grossman (The Magicians trilogy)
• David Mitchell (Cloud Atlas or The Bone Clocks would be good starting places.)
posted by yankeefog at 3:28 AM on November 26, 2015

Best answer: Logged in to second Milorad Pavic's Dictionary of the Khazars. I'm a *huge* Nabokov fan, and I've read many of the novels that have been mentioned, but Dictionary of the Khazars is the only novel where after I finished, I turned to the beginning, and completely re-started again.

I've probably read it 4 times now, and it is a delicious, wonderful, magical book. Your partner will love it.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 5:26 AM on November 26, 2015

Best answer: Laurence Sterne. I highly recommend both Tristram Shandy and A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy; they're brilliantly written, laugh-out-loud funny, and free for your Kindle!
posted by languagehat at 6:29 AM on November 26, 2015

Best answer: Possibly Mapp and Lucia for smug people and goofs.

Augustus Carp, Esq., Being the Autobiography of a Really Good Man - short but magnificent.

For Kindle freebies, there's The Exploits of Brigadier Gerard, and the Adventures of Brigadier Gerard by Conan Doyle, recollections of a slightly buffoonish Napoleonic general. The Complete Collection comes in at 99 cents

And, finally, if he likes Rabelais, he should like that author's contemporary Teofilo Folengo, whose Baldo has only recently been translated into English. (Well, I like it.)
posted by BWA at 10:27 AM on November 26, 2015

Anthony Burgess is an interesting writer whose works often involve a funny collision between pretentious highbrow ideals and lowbrow (bunglers, con artists, smug people, and goofs) settings. The Doctor is Sick and The Enderby Quartet of novels are both diverting examples of his style in this vein.

(And if you like Casanova, I got a real kick out of Fellini's flamboyant film starring Donald Sutherland;)
posted by ovvl at 5:48 PM on November 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

Still open? Good. The Good Soldier Švejk may be the only funny book to come out of WWI
posted by BWA at 1:41 PM on July 17, 2016

Well, if we're talking about WWI, Ford Madox Ford’s Parade’s End series of novels is brilliantly written and often mordantly funny (though sometimes grim).
posted by languagehat at 8:26 AM on July 18, 2016

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