Thursday, August 29, 2019

Three Men in a classic about nothing

Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) by Jerome K. Jerome is one of those books that I think everyone should read. It’s a classic that somehow doesn’t really say anything at all but it’s such a charming nothing.

Allegedly, Jerome was planning on writing a travelogue that described a boating trip on the Thames that he and two of his friends made. However, the humor element took over and a fictional dog got added to the mix and that led to the book we have today.

The book is still kind of about that boating trip. Indeed, the trip is described well enough that you can recreate the trip today, which many people do. But most of the book is the characters, particularly the narrater  going on long, rambling asides that are often hysterical. Jerome describing his Uncle Podger trying to hang a picture is one of the most perfect slapstick bits imaginable.

There are some odd shifts in tone. The bit where the narrater begins imagining King John signing the Magna Carta comes out of left field and always makes me wonder if I missed something. And the description of a suicide victim they come across is a drastic shift in tone unlike anything else in the book.

However, for the most part, the book is a leisurely journey that basically goes nowhere but its a relaxing, fun trip. The tone is so conversational that it feels less like a book and much more like a monologue and not in an annoying way :D

I was shocked after reading the book for the first time to learn that it was written in 1889. That’s at least thirty years older than I expected. The book is so candid and witty that it feels more modern. Indeed, while I have absolutely nothing to back this thought up, I think of it as one of the first modern British comedies.

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