Dark humor

A Natural Curiosity :: Dark humor

imageIn this season of family reunions and holiday sentiments, there are times when you need a dose of dark humor.

My brother Keith recently asked for recommendations of literature that is dark and funny. I came up with the list below, roughly arranged from funnier to darker. (The ratio of darkness to humor in some works, like Nathanael West’s Day of the Locust, is so high that I find them hard to enjoy.)

How to Lose Friends and Alienate People by Toby Young
Hokum, edited by Paul Beatty
The Ask by Sam Lipsyte
The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (and lots of other Vonnegut)
The Ginger Man by J.P. Donleavy
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
White Noise by Don DeLillo

More suggestions are welcome!

Posted by geoff on 11/27 at 11:38 AM


Most of Charles Willeford’s work would qualify, especially his Hoke Moseley novels. My favorite quote concerning the subject is attributed to him: “Just tell the truth and they’ll accuse you of writing black humor.”

Posted by Davey  on  11/27  at  01:12 PM

This is a fantastic list. I’d add Kurkov’s Death and the Penguin (on the darker side), George Saunder’s Pastoralia (probably in the middle), and Celine’s Journey to the End of the Night (funny, but completely wretched and ignorant).

Posted by John  on  11/28  at  10:25 AM

Ah, dark humor. Whenever I think about it, I think about the Dr. Strangelove movie.

Posted by Gary  on  02/20  at  10:53 PM

Any Kafka? He’s incredibly dark and funny. He may have invented the whole genre…

Posted by Matthew Simpson  on  06/07  at  11:40 PM

Glad to see Catch-22 on the list.

Posted by Ken Kindt  on  10/09  at  10:40 PM

I had a chance to read the slaughter house-five long time back.
I was a huge Vonnegut fan in high school, and had been looking forward to reading his magnum opus. However, I was disappointed.
I think the message of this book is valuable, and it would have lost some of it’s power being told in any other way. However, I came away with a bad taste in my mouth. It felt like if I were listening to a rap song full of offensive language and references.

As it is, I’ll leave it with the moral that war is pointless.

Posted by PV Pixels  on  06/06  at  06:05 AM
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