Everyone loves a good story, but our favourites are the ones that make us laugh. As it turns out, in addition to putting pen to paper, plenty of well-known novelists have lived wonderfully funny lives. From stealing urinals to writing in the nude, we’ve put together a collection of our favourite silly tales. If you’re sitting comfortably, we’ll begin...
My dog ate my masterpiece
The iconic novel Of Mice and Men might have been completely different had it not been for John Steinbeck’s dog, Charley. The poodle allegedly chewed his way through an earlier version, rendering it useless. Steinbeck managed to see the funny side, saying it was evidence that his book clearly needed some work.
Ernest Hemmingway wasn’t a comic writer, but he had his moments in real life. Once, after drinking late in a bar called Sloppy Joe’s, he decided to steal their urinal. His rationale for doing so? He’d ‘pissed away’ enough money in the bar. It seems he never gave his trophy back – it’s now a feature in the garden at the Hemingway Museum.
Photo by Steven Miller
Why is a walnut like a walrus?
It might sound like the beginning of a riddle, but J.R.R. Tolkien (author of the Lord Of The Rings Trilogy) was in fact a researcher of words beginning with the letter ‘W’. His role at the Oxford English Dictionary also saw him working on the words waggle, warlock and waistcoat.
After finishing his novel, Les Misérables, Victor Hugo wanted to know how it was being received. The story goes that (despite being a man of many words) he sent a simple “?” to his agent. The agent clearly saw the funny side and responded with just a “!”.
Really rather ridiculous
You probably haven’t heard of German poet Gottlob Wilhelm Burmann, and that’s because his hatred of the letter ‘R’ is more well-known than his writing. Despite having an ‘R’ in his own surname, the 18th century poet refused to use the letter on the page or in daily conversation – try it yourself, it’s harder than it sounds!
The Woolf in emperor’s clothing
Virginia Woolf might be best known for Mrs Dalloway, Orlando and A Room of One’s Own, but she also hit the papers for her role in a practical joke involving the HMS Dreadnought. Woolf and her friends donned turbans and robes and managed to convince the crew that they were Abyssinian royalty. While the tricksters found it hilarious, it was a matter of extreme embarrassment for the Royal Navy.
When searching for inspiration, writer D.H. Lawrence wasn’t content with going for a walk, sipping a cup of coffee or (as we like to) talking to his socks. Instead, he would scuttle up a mulberry tree without any clothes on. Just think of the splinters!
Today, Marcel Proust is a very well-known name in the literary world, but when he was younger, he was known as ‘Lecram’ by his friend Antoine Bibesco. The two playmates would spell their names back to front as part of a secret language. What would your name be if it were spelled backwards?