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Pickle Me This

April 26, 2012

Funny women

“This is what I used to think about Sherry– wait, that’s not what I meant to say. I never really thought anything about Sherry. Except that she always seemed like a nice person. I don’t know if I would’ve said before this that she was nice enough to give you the shirt off her back, but when you stop and think about it, that’s a lot to ask from someone.” –Jessica Westhead, “We Are All About Wendy Now”

This is from page 3 of Jessica’s collection And Also Sharks. And now is the time when I think we need to start an award for women’s humour writing, because I don’t think the establishment gets it. Also Caroline Adderson, Zsuzsi Gartner (the exchange student riding the tortoise!!!), Heather Birrell (“Geraldine and Jerome”, anyone? So funny: ‘”It’s okay,” said Geradline. “I like your belt.”‘), Anne Perdue, Julie Booker, Anakana Schofield, Esme Claire Keith, Laura Boudreau, Lynn Coady, Suzette Mayr, Carolyn Black (Martin Amis! Remember Martin Amis?).

We could fill a fucking ballroom.

The humour is so dark and subtle though, with all of these women. Perhaps this is what the Leacockians aren’t getting (and when is the last time you laughed out loud at Sunshine Sketches, laughed so hard that you woke up your husband and then insisted on reading him entire paragraphs? Seriously?).

In these books are suicides, paraplegics, decapitations, dead babies, and maimed pot-bellied pigs. And they’re so funny they’ll make your heart hurt. Which is way funnier than heart-hurt caused by systemic discrimination and disregard of brilliant women writers, no?

Ha ha ha.

UPDATE: In all fairness, I see that the list of entries for this year’s Leacock Prize did not include many of last year’s funniest books. Though if I were them, I’d still want to revamp my program to get a broader range of books to choose from.

16 thoughts on “Funny women”

  1. Julie Mannell says:

    Sheila Heti is also incredibly funny and canadian.

  2. m says:

    I have to admit that I have not yet read many women you have listed, but those I have are hilarious. I agree that those in charge of the Leacock just don’t get it and it may be time to have a women’s humour award. The Pickle Me This Award. A giant silver (or brass?) pickle that the winners can hold above her head as she does laps around her publisher’s offices.

    (But there must be a cash prize, too, of course. C’mon Scotiabank/BMO/TD, give your money to the Pickle!)

  3. patricia says:

    YES. The Pickle Me This Award. Brilliant. Let’s start a campaign. Along with the brass pickle and lolly, I think the winner should get some lovely bunting, too.

  4. m says:

    Bunting! Absolutely bunting. The bunting she can keep forever. The Pickle gets passed on each year.

  5. Kim says:

    Haven’t read all these women, but Coady, Gartner, Mayr – yes! So clever. Good post!

  6. Kiley says:

    Love it! And who doesn’t like a pickle? Only non-funny people.

  7. I’m confused: are you suggesting the humour in The Sisters Brothers is NOT dark? That the scene in which they scoop the horse’s eye out with a spoon (one of the funniest things I’ve read in ages) is somehow bright and sunshiny?

    In any other year, I’d be inclined to agree with you where the Leacock is concerned. This year, I think they made a wise choice.

    1. Kerry says:

      I haven’t read The Sisters Brothers, though everyone I’ve ever met adored it. I’m not even talking about this year in particular– the shortlist didn’t really drive me wild, truthfully. From all accounts, SB is great.

      But I’m looking at the bigger picture, at the failure of a woman to win this prize (almost) ever. I guess funny is as subjective as everything is, but I’m still not sure why the writers I mention here never get called out/celebrated for being as hilarious as they are. What kind of humour shortlist wouldn’t have And Also Sharks on it? Why don’t we talk about how Caroline Adderson makes paraplegia so amusing? Martin Amis? Martin Amis!!

      Funny women exist. Why isn’t The Leacock Prize the least bit troubled by their failure to recognize them?

  8. If you want to complain that women don’t get credit for being funny (or for writing good books), that’s one thing. Doing so in the context of this year’s Leacock prize is something else altogether.

    In point of fact, if the Leacock jury were to operate true to form, they would have chosen the Susan Juby novel as the winner. It was much more in keeping with the spirit of what has won before. By choosing The Sisters Brothers, the prize is actually breaking ranks from the kind of humour (nice, comfortable, pleasant) that it’s historically honoured.

    Should the Leacock be worried about the paucity of female winners over the course of its history? Sure. Should that mean that it refuses to award what is clearly the best book in contention this year? That’s more debatable.

    1. Kerry says:

      Actually, I can complain about whatever I like. And I don’t mention this year’s Leacock Prize in my post at all.

  9. Clare says:

    Can I just triple-like that last comment, Kerry? I would also throw Trevor Cole into the ring against Steven’s comment about comfortable humour. But that would be splitting hairs since I don’t actually know much about previous winners.

    Oh, and I would add Cordelia Strube to your list, Kerry.

    1. Kerry says:

      Yes yes yes re. Strube, Clare! Also I think I have to read Practical Jean now.

  10. Kiley says:

    Trevor Cole’s books have made me burst out laughing in quiet public places several times.

  11. Clare says:

    Oh yes, Kiley. I love them. But I would never call them comfortable.

  12. Kiley says:

    Oh I know! And you’re right, they’re deliciously uncomfortable.

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