Tom Holt (YGtCTO Words #30)

Who’s Afraid of Beowulf?

Book written by Tom Holt

You might be surprised to learn how difficult it is to find something to read when a Terry Pratchett novel is not available. You have to bear in mind that Pratchett has long walked in the land of humor, so the problem is finding someone with a reputation as well as a good-sized backlog. Eric Idle wrote a wonderful science fiction novel, but only the one. Michael Rubens is great, bu he is a recent development.

In the end, two names fit the bill: Robert Rankin and Tom Holt.

Rankin is remarkable, though the words “an acquired taste” are usually appended to any recommendation. If you know who Robert Anton Wilson is already and just wish that Wilson was a bit funnier and English, then Rankin is definitely for you. I have read quite a bit of Rankin…

So, I tried Holt after reading Rankin, so I really had no idea what I was going to get. Needless to say, Holt felt more grounded in reality. After The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse, anything would. Holt’s tales start in a more familiar reality. The peculiarities tend to rise out of solid structures that offer some basis in our common knowledge. Like Rankin and Pratchett, characters may appear in multiple novels, but there is no sense that you had to have read any of the other books. Having said all that, Holt is no more Pratchett than Rankin and that is all fine. Much about the Discworld (Pratchett’s creation) is grounded in what we all know about cities and life.

Tom Holt

Philosophically, Holt is closer to Pratchett,

while Rankin (like Wilson) is far more anarchic. The interesting thing about all three is that they all wear their views of the world out in the open. Something about working in humor allows more freedom (or maybe it requires a clear point of view). I am a pretty strong believer that you don’t necessarily have to agree with someone’s politics to get their humor. Funny is funny. It is a craft that edges into art when you are dealing with these three and many others.

Since art has been upsetting people for centuries, there may well be a thesis somewhere in the idea that comedy can be the purest form of art as it allows the artist the freedom to be the most outrageous. That would be something to sell to a doctoral committee, wouldn’t it? I suppose it would be all about the timing.

Like James Thurber and so many other great humorists, I find the works of Tom Holt little miracles in another way. As I read them, I discover that the book in front of me is the book that I have always been looking for. Something universal in the writing happens when you share a laugh or a tear. A common thread runs through all our lives that the best art reveals, but we forget that the thread is a joke as often as anything else.

What’s it all about?

You’ve Got to Check This Out is a blog series about music, words, and all sorts of artistic matters. It started with an explanation. 211 more to go.

New additions to You’ve Got to Check This Out release regularly. Also, free humor, short works, and poetry post irregularly. Receive notifications on Facebook by friending or following Craig.

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