The 5 funniest books according to the strangely agitated guy buying Portnoy’s Complaint at Barnes & Noble

So I’m sitting behind the gift wrapping table at the Barnes & Noble in Calhoun Village with FFJ. We’re there to raise money for her dad’s EyeLink foundation.

An hour or so into our shift this guy comes up to our table with a copy of Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint to be wrapped. After he puts some money in the donation box he tries to choose the appropriate wrapping paper for his book. He’s indecisive and I try to help him choose between the holiday city scape or the snowglobes. Then I make a crack about choosing the Hanukkah paper, considering it’s Roth and all.

“Well it would be if Roth wasn’t an atheist,” he said, shifting his weight from one foot to the other.
“I had no idea,” I said. “He just writes a lot about being Jewish.”

He goes on to get a little uppity and start quoting Portnoy’s Complaint, fidgeting the whole time, like he was angry or nervous. I said that’s one of the few Roth books I hadn’t read.

“Oh,” he said. “It’s one of the five funniest books ever.”
“Really?” I said, because if someone’s gonna get uppity about books with me, I am more than happy to throw down with them. “What are the other ones?”

This is when he gets even more jumpy and agitated.

“Ahh,” he started and stopped. “Well, you know, PG Wodehouse’s The Code of the Woosters .
“Haven’t read Wodehouse,” I said.
“Oh and Catch 22 and ahhh. . . ”

I folded my arms and nodded at him, waiting for him to finish.

“Er, probably Hitchhiker’s Guide.

By this time FFJ has finished wrapping the book and handed it to him.

“Happy Holidays,” she said, all full of her usual perk and kindness.
“Yeah.” He grabbed his book and walked a way from the table. “I’ll have to get back to you on that last book.”

As he walked out the door, I rolled my eyes at FFJ. Then her husband Jon, walked over to the table.

“The next time that happens,” he said. “Instead of asking him about books, ask him for his phone number.”

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  1. shokkou 08.Dec.07 at 10:10 am

    What a pretentious lewzer prick! Everybody KNOWS that Cosmic Banditos by A.C. Weisbecker is in the top five of funniest books ever written! Durr.

  2. bakiwop 08.Dec.07 at 2:32 pm

    so what ARE the five funniest books ever written?

  3. FFJ 09.Dec.07 at 9:07 am

    hubbin and i continued ripping at that overly pretentious wad well into saturday afternoon. on the way to stillwater he says, that guy is an idiot….vonnegut should have all top five spots. and i’d agree if i hadn’t slipped through high school and college with out reading a word of vonnegut.

  4. shokkou 09.Dec.07 at 12:18 pm

    Yes! Vonnegut is/was just plain funny in a bluntly humanistic Mark Twain kind of way (another funny writer). Read his essays “A Man Without A Country”. He was a good kind person as well as funny.

    So who IS this Philip Roth and IS he as funny as Adams, Vonnegut, Weisbecker, Mark Twain? Or Robbins or Coupland or (Christopher) Moore? So many books, so little time.

  5. k. 13.Dec.07 at 12:09 pm

    Did you find it odd that even “strangely agitated guy” knew the rule THERE IS NO FIVE?

  6. Jodi 13.Dec.07 at 3:31 pm

    Hell yes! I thought it was awesome that he knew there was no five. See? Even strange men in Barnes and Noble know that five is bad.

  7. Andrew 16.Feb.09 at 4:59 am

    Ha! The funniest book ever, period, is “The Baby in the Bag.” The characters and really bizzare situations are hilarious. The premise is political correctness and how it can be manipulated to push an agenda and gain free publicity. Too funny!


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