Friday, May 7, 2010

Review: Three Men in a Boat (to say nothing of the dog)

Three Men in a Boat
Thank you, thank you, thank you Ana for your review of Three Men in a Boat (To say nothing of the dog), by Jerome K. Jerome!  I would say something dramatic like, "I haven't read something this funny in forever!" but that would be wrong because I read The Wee Free Men just a short time ago and that book had me cracking up all over the place, too.

I have no idea what the plot summary of this book is.  Ostensibly, three (absolutely marvelous) friends living in London decide to take a boat trip up the Thames, with a dog named Montmormency.  The book is a recounting of their travel experience.  I remember my English teacher in high school telling me that The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man was one of the best examples of stream-of-consciousness narratives in the English language, but I would say that Jerome trumps Joyce because his stream-of-conscious conversational narrative is absolutely hilarious and witty and amazing.

Stream-of-consciousness is when you talk about one thing, and then it jogs your memory of something else, so then you start talking about that other thing.  For example, perhaps you are telling a story about fishing, and when describing putting a fly on your hook-thing, you remember a story about how you got malaria while in the tropics.  So then you interrupt the fishing story to talk about malaria.  Jerome K. Jerome does this throughout his narrative, to fabulous effect.  Even when he's not using stream-of-consciousness, he is very reminiscent of Saturday Night Live's Deep Thoughts.

He sees people on the side of the river fishing, and then goes off for a while on fish tales and how everyone claims to have caught the biggest, baddest fish in the whole world.  Some people are under the impression that all that is required to make a good fisherman is the ability to tell lies easily and without blushing ; but this is a mistake.  He talks about work.  It is not that I object to the work, mind you; I like work: it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours.  He talks about true friendship.  That's Harris all over - so ready to take the burden of everything himself, and put it on the backs of other people.  Weather forecasts.  I do think that, of all the silly, irritating tomfoolishness by which we are plagued, this "weather-forecast" fraud is about the most aggravating. It "forecasts" precisely what happened yesterday or the day before, and precisely the opposite of what is going to happen today.  He touches on hypochondria.  It is a most extraordinary thing, but I never read a patent medicine advertisement without being impelled to the conclusion that I am suffering from the particular disease therein dealt with in its most virulent form.

Three Men in a Boat
Jerome K. Jerome is like the Victorian Bill Bryson.  Three Men in a Boat is not a bad travelogue.  There are descriptions of every town visited.  Some of these descriptions are very flowery and veer into the almost poetic and reverent.  While I think Jerome is handy with a turn of phrase, they seemed a bit out of place in the narrative.  But that was fine with me because everything else was so fabulous.  But the book is not memorable because of the places visited; it's memorable because of the person who visited them and shared the story with us.  And that is where Jerome excels.  He could tell me a story about a trip through a paper bag and I am certain he'd have me howling with laughter.  And, as Ana said so eloquently in her review, "Sometimes humor is enough, isn't it?"

In this case, it absolutely is.  If you are under the impression that the Victorians were frumpy, with no sense of humor- give Jerome a chance to prove you wrong.  You won't regret it!

20 comments:

  1. Thanks! I haven't read Wee Free Men either :)

    BookReviews

    ReplyDelete
  2. This sounds absolutely hilarious and wonderful - I definitely want to check this out!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Sounds bizarre and hilarious and a lot of fun! Thank you for adding your review to Ana's to make me really want the book!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Yikes, I do confess that I tend to avoid any book that has any connection at all with James Joyce.

    ReplyDelete
  5. For some reason the thought of reading this book has never appealed to me, but your review has made me think I'd probably enjoy it. I love the quote about the weather forecast!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Your review makes this book look incredibly good, I can't wait to give it a try myself.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Have you read Connie Willis' To Say Nothing of the Dog? It would make a lovely chaser, the perfect chaser actually. Except that it would likely add another 10 books to your TBR list (if you're not already following her).

    ReplyDelete
  8. Oh Aarti! I am so glad you read and loved this book!! It is one of my all time favorites, though my copy is a bit worn out!! I also second the recommendation of To Say Nothing of the Dog, by Connie Willis. Since you have already read this one, the Willis would make an excellent companion to it. Wonderful review! And thanks for peppering some of the books quotes throughout. I need to reread this now!!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Booklover- I highly recommend both books!

    Brizmus- It IS. It's just great fun to read.

    Amy- No problem. Blogging is all about enabling, isn't it? ;-)

    Blodeuedd- Oh, no! There isn't any REAL connection at all. Just that they both employ stream-of-consciousness.

    Helen- I love that one, too! Actually, there is just so much quotable in this book...

    Iris- I hope you do. I don't think you'll be disappointed!

    Buried in Print & Zibilee- I just got To Say Nothing of the Dog from the bookstore recently, actually, after finishing this one! Haven't read it yet, but I hope to do so soon!

    ReplyDelete
  10. I enjoyed this when I read it, but since then I have discovered I must be Jerome K. Jerome's enemy. Sigh. I regret it, but what can I do? He talked trash about Oscar Wilde.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I have wanted to read this for awhile. I am glad you enjoyed it.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I've been reading stuff that is pretty dark and depressing of late. This one could be just the break I need from all of that.

    ReplyDelete
  13. This book is a scream isn't it. And it was amazing to me how familiar many of the little traumas and foibles seemed. The whole business of leaving the toothbrush and dividing up the workload are just the kinds of things I could imagine people doing today!

    ReplyDelete
  14. I love this book beyond words! What more can I say? I think I've read it three times, at least.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Aah.. this is one of those books I had read an excerpt about in my middle school English class! And I purchased the book right away after that hilarious English lesson when we were all ROFL! With our English teacher! :) I don't remember if I ever read that book, may be I did. But since I don't remember, I am going to read it again! Thanks for bringing this to my attention! :)

    ReplyDelete
  16. Jenny- Horrors! Author infighting is so sad!

    Vivienne- I definitely did and hope you make time for it in your schedule soon.

    Kathleen- It's definitely not in the least bit depressing or dark!

    Teresa- Yes, you're so right! I thought that way about hypochondria, too!

    Nan- I think I'm going to be looking to get a copy for myself, too. I just read it online.

    Aths- I can see how it would be GREAT for class! Talk about finding a way to love English ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  17. One of the funniest books EVER. I always think of it as if Bertie Wooster left Jeeves behind and went on a boat trip with two equally dense friends. If you can find it, I highly recommend the Naxos Audiobook narrated by Martin Jarvis. My kids loved it too.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I hadn't thought of what a great example of stream of consciousness this is, but you're absolutely right :D I'm so glad you enjoyed it as much as I did! Now you need to read Connie Willis' To Say Nothing of the Dog :P

    ReplyDelete
  19. Thanks for reviewing this. This is one of those books that I've been meaning to read for over 20 years (Gulp!), reading your review has made me realised that I really must do something about it.....

    By the way - many thanks for including me on your Trusted opinions - it's very nice to be trusted :) and it's done my blog stats no end of good.

    ReplyDelete
  20. I'm glad you add some sort of humor into your writings. Great reading book!

    ReplyDelete

I read every comment posted on this blog, even if it sometimes takes me a while to respond. Thank you for taking the time and effort to comment here! Unless you are spamming me, in which case, thanks for nothing.