Thursday, October 02, 2008

Left a good job in the city

After reading Connie Willis' To Say Nothing of the Dog, which frequently references the Jerome K. Jerome original work, I finally got around to reading Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog).

I was hooked in in the first few paragraphs by the hilarious description of the narrator's hypochondriac panic attack, which drives him to go boating up the Thames with his two buddies and his dog. (One of the funny parts is that the narrator talks about the dog as if he were a fourth person...)

It's one of the funniest books I've read lately! (Then again, for full disclosure, this past week I've been reading about the history of the EPA, so my perspective might be a bit skewed.) It's not really about a boating excursion upriver, it's about the neurotic social tendencies and bizarre memories of the main characters. Each one tends to romanticize their trip or their fishing prowess or their singing abilities, and then abruptly swings the other way (often with the weather) to despise fellow travelers and curse the camping gear. The book is more a collection of very true-to-life anecdotes told in a skillfully hilarious fashion, with the boating trip as an excuse to throw together a bunch of character sketches. Jerome supposedly originally intended it to be more of a tourist's guide (boating the Thames was popular in the late 19th-century), and parts of the book definitely seem to randomly mention various pubs and hotels in small river towns. But it's still a great story!

No comments: