When Howard Jacobson won the Man Booker prize for The Finkler Question last autumn it was hailed as a victory for the comic novel. 'Except that I write tragic novels,' Jacobson declared. But he is nonetheless gratified that Jonathan Safran Foer said of him 'I don't know a funnier writer alive.' Being funny should go without saying if you're a novelist, Jacobson insists. In conversation with Paul Holdengräber, Howard Jacobson will discuss why any novelist who doesn't make you laugh is short-changing you.
So what makes Howard Jacobson laugh?
· Ping pong, for a start but that doesn't mean I don't take it seriously.
· Ditto being Jewish.
· Ditto being English and Jewish.
· Ditto masochistic sex.
· The novel that preceded The Finkler Question is about a man who wants his wife to be unfaithful to him, and the hero of The
Mighty Walzer plays ping pong to lose. But then we don't read or write novels, Jacobson argues, if we aren't half in love with losing.
HOWARD JACOBSON is the author of eight novels, including The Mighty Walzer which won the 1999 Everyman Wodehouse Award for comic writing and The Finkler Question which won the Man Booker Prize last autumn.
PAUL HOLDENGRABER is the Director of LIVE from the NYPL.