Inspirations for ‘Novel’

Daniil Kharms

Daniil Kharms was a Soviet-era absurdist writer who died in 1942. Kharms wrote in Russian—but he's funny even in English. Read him on LibGen. There are some examples in this Twitter thread. Here is one of the funniest ones:

The Lecture

Pushkov said: — Woman is the workbench of love.

And he immediately received a clout across the gob.

— What's that for? — asked Pushkov.

But, not getting any answer to his question, he continued: — This is what I think: a woman should be tackled from below. Women really like this and only pretend that they don't like it.

At this point Pushkov was again struck across the gob.

— But what on earth is this, comrades! If that's the way it is, I won't carry on speaking — said Pushkov.

But, after waiting about a quarter of a minute, he continued: — A woman is so built that she is all soft and damp.

At this point Pushkov was again struck across the gob. Pushkov tried to pretend that he hadn't noticed this and went on: — If you just sniff a woman...

But at this point Pushkov was so slammed across the gob that he caught hold of his cheek and said: — Comrades, under these conditions it is absolutely impossible to deliver a lecture. If this happens again, I shall discontinue.

Pushkov waited for a quarter of a minute and then continued: — Now, where were we? Ah, yes. That was it. A woman loves to look at herself. She sits down in front of the mirror completely naked...

At this word, Pushkov again received a clout across the gob.

— Naked — repeated Pushkov.

Smack! — he was weighed into right across the gob.

— Naked! — yelled Pushkov.

Smack! — he received a clout across the gob.

— Naked! A naked woman! A nude tart! — Pushkov kept yelling. Smack! Smack! Smack! — Pushkov took it across the gob.

— A nude tart with a ladle in her hands! — yelled Pushkov.

Smack! Smack! — the blows rained down on Pushkov.

— A tart's bum-hole! — yelled Pushkov, dodging the blows. — A nude nun!

But at this point Pushkov was struck with such force that he lost consciousness and crumpled to the floor as though pole-axed.

Other long-dead Russian writers

Arkady Averchenko and Teffi were brilliant semi-absurd writers.

Ilf and Petrov weren't that absurd—but made up for it by choosing supremely funny words and phrases, every single time, on every occasion.

Don Hertzfeldt

Don Hertzfeldt is an American animator, who is, luckily, not dead yet. I have only seen his short films Rejected and Lily and Jim. The former is absurd; the latter is funny in a very, very dry way that I adore.

My sister

Her and I have spent the last five years annoying our parents with questions like “If our little pretty kitty grew a fifth paw on the forehead, what would you do? WOULD YOU CUT IT OFF? HOW EXACTLY WOULD YOU CUT IT OFF? ELABORATE.”

English as She Is Spoke

English as She Is Spoke is a very badly translated phrase book from the 19th century. Read it online.

Mark Twain said of English as She Is Spoke that “Nobody can add to the absurdity of this book, nobody can imitate it successfully, nobody can hope to produce its fellow; it is perfect.”

Examples follow:

Of the Man.
The brain⁠The inferior lip
The brains⁠The superior lip
The fat of the leg⁠⁠The marrow
The ham⁠The reins
Music's instruments.
A flagelet⁠A dreum
A hurdy-gurdy.

The walk.

Will you and take a walk with me?

Wait for that the warm be out.

Go through that meadow. Who the country is beautiful! who the trees are thick!

Take the bloom's perfume.

It seems me that the corn does push alredy.

You hear the bird's gurgling?

Which pleasure! which charm!

The field has by me a thousand charms.

Are you hunter? will you go to the hunting in one day this week?

Willingly; I have not a most pleasure in the world. There is some game on they cantons?

We have done a great walk.

Stanisław Lem

Stanisław Lem was a weird Polish sci-fi writer. If you know him at all, it's probably as the author of Solaris. But Solaris is very far from what I have in mind here.

His series of “fairy tales”, Fables for Robots and The Cyberiad, are written in a cool overly-literary manner. He also published a collection of fake reviews of nonexistent books, A Perfect Vacuum. I don't know any other acclaimed writers who would have done anything like that.

Old advertisements

Old advertisements (1800–1960) are both daring and naive at the same time. Nobody writes in the same way old advertisements were written, anymore.

The whole German language

I love the weird word order. “Why knows me Facebook's algorithm so well?”

Peter Serafinowicz

Peter Serafinowicz is a master impersonator and parodist (?).

Exhibit A: The Peter Serafinowicz Show, in which he did a ton of ad and TV show parodies. Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? —

Exhibit B: Look Around You, a parody of '80s education films:

The humour is derived from a combination of patent nonsense and faithful references and homages. For instance, fictional items that have a passing resemblance to everyday objects are shown and discussed. Such items include the “boîte diabolique”, a box at the top of a piano scale which housed the “forbidden notes” [...]

My love for running gags also partly comes from him.

Bureaucratic Russian

I love parodying every bureaucratic style I can get ahold of. Most of the time it's stifled, almost dead bureaucratic Russian. It only gets weirder when translated into English, because I'm not trying to do a faithful translation—but neither am I trying to do an idiomatic one. Yay loan translations.

Bill Wurtz's History of Japan

Watch the first 15 seconds. It's enough to get what it's about and decide if you want to watch the whole thing, or not.

Japan is an island by the sea, filled with volcanoes and it's BEAUTIFUL. In the year negative billion, Japan might not have been here. In the year negative forty thousand, it was here, and you could walk to it, and some people walked to it.

Mitchell and Webb

David Mitchell and Robert Webb are those two guys from Peep Show. Before that, they were doing awesome sketches—like this one. If Novel was acted out, some of the characters would have to use intonations similar to what Mitchell does at 0:15.

Yuri Vafin (Юрий Вафин)

Yuri Vafin is a modern Russian micro-writer. Very close in style to some of the things I like doing. Read him here:

One of the best examples:


@dril is a pseudonymous Twitter user best known for his idiosyncratic style of absurdist humor and non sequiturs.

I haven't read much of @dril, but the little I have read shifted me towards more weirdness and sloppiness than I used before.

Lucky's monologue from Waiting for Godot

Waiting for Godot is a very, very famous play. If I saw it, I probably would enjoy it. But I haven't.

I have only seen Lucky's monologue, a small bit from Waiting for Godot. A long time ago. It struck me, and stuck with me. Many of the inspirations above are recent, but this one is from my teens, and it went deeper than the recent ones have.

The Grove Companion to Samuel Beckett describes the speech as a “word salad parodying the music-hall demented lecture, with three incoherent premises, one major and two minor, but no logical reconciliation.”



Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, more commonly known simply as Borat, is a 2006 comedy film directed by Larry Charles as well as co-written and produced by Sacha Baron Cohen. Baron Cohen stars as Borat Sagdiyev, a fictitious Kazakh journalist who travels through the United States to make a documentary which features real-life interactions with Americans.

Dwight's speech from The Office

We must never cede control of the motherland,
For it is together! that we prevail!


vital and fateful importance

Rick and Morty

Rick and Morty seems to be heavily based on the philosophy of "if you can arrange it so that you would make a ton of fart jokes and people would watch it anyway, DO SO". I also subscribe to this philosophy.

It's not the fart jokes specifically that are funny; it's the consistent application of "take stuff you like and keep keep keep going with it". Sort of like Philip Glass.

I am not even kidding. Rick and Morty is the Philip Glass of TV shows. Well. Maybe not quite, but somewhat.

The outside world is our enemy, Morty. We're the only friends we've got, Morty. It's just Rick and Morty. Rick and Morty and their adventures, Morty. Rick and Morty forever and forever. Morty's things. Me and Rick and Morty running around, and Rick and Morty time. All day long, forever. All a hundred days. Rick and Morty forever, a hundred times. Over and over, www dot rickandmortyadventures dot com. All 100 years. Every minute, rickandmorty dot com.

Family Guy

See here for an explanation.