Robert Glancy: Best books I never wrote

Please Do Not Disturb, Robert Glancy
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Please Do Not Disturb, Robert Glancy

Adventure Series, Willard Price

Having been raised in Africa, I was baffled by most of the books I was given, books about Peter and Jane having picnics in parks. Until one day I met Hal and Roger, two brothers who travelled to places full of crazy people and wild animals.

I remember in one scene Hal stitched up a wound by getting ants to bite him, then he tore off their bodies so the heads remained like thick stitches pincering the wound together. Yuck! But as a boy I loved it.

Catch-22, Joseph Heller

Some are masters of tragedy, some are masters of comedy; Heller was that rare genius who could blend both.

He can trip you into laughter about Major Major – 'Even among men lacking all distinction he inevitably stood out as a man lacking more distinction than the rest, people were always impressed by how unimpressive he was' – then next minute have you in tears over young Snowdon's death – 'It was easy to read the message in his entrails. Man was matter … The spirit gone, man is garbage. That was Snowden's secret.' 

Catch-22, a farce about a tragic war, is a study in the power of tone. If you get the tone right you can do anything, and Heller did.

Money, Martin Amis

Amis's flamboyant style is a sublime fit for the debauchery of John Self, the folly of the film industry, and the lurid excesses of the '80s.

Every word is made to work (taxis don't just drive – they shoulder, nudge and shark), it also has the funniest tennis match in literature, and many of the images are sharp enough to slice your eyeballs: 'The middle-management of Manhattan, stared on, their faces as thin as credit cards.' Sad yet funny, surreal yet never unreal, Money is Amis's masterpiece.

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White Noise, Don DeLillo

Funny is not a word associated with DeLillo but there is so much dry wit in White Noise. Each reading offers new giggles, chortles and wry smiles. 'The smoke alarm went off in the hallway upstairs, either to let us know the battery had just died or because the house was on fire.'

Conversations With My Agent, Rob Long

Long wrote for Cheers and has a sitcom style that teases big laughs from small words. For anyone obsessed with dialogue, this is for you, a book about the farce of Hollywood unspooling in hilarious phone conversations between a neurotic writer and his bizarre agent.

 

Please Do Not Disturb by Robert Glancy (Bloomsbury, $30) is out now.

 

 - Stuff

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