28 March 2009

March Classic: Three Men in a Boat

Sorry sorry sorry - both on the lack of posts front (I now have Internet in my new place so am connected to world again!) and the fact that this March Classic post is practically an April classic. The reason for the delay is that about a month ago I had sudden inspiration as to what should be my March classic, and promptly forgot all about it. All month there has been this thought in the back of my mind that I couldn't choose anything else because I had the perfect classic all picked out, if only I could remember what it was. Finally, last night I looked on my own bookshelves (what an innovative idea!) and there it was: Three Men in a Boat.

Possibly the funniest book known to man, Three Men in a Boat was written in 1889 (so it's a REAL, more than 100 years old classic!) and details a boating trip up the Thames, undertaken by three men (to say nothing of the dog....) The narrator and his two friends have got to be three of the most ridiculous characters in fiction. We can tell this three sentences in, when J. is talking about the various maladies he is suffering...'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'. J. says this without a trace of irony let me assure you.

The trip up the Thames is an educational one for the reader, as J. offers his observations on camping, cheese, women, sea trips, as well as a running commentary on the trip and experience thereof. I cannot think of any other book which is as funny today as it was over 100 years ago (although according to my friend Wiki, it was initially seen as a book for the 'Arrys and 'Arriets, evidently it was not something read by the upper classes...). I'm going to leave you with this musing over an Irish Stew:

"I forget the other ingredients, but I know nothing was wasted; and I remember that, towards the end, Montmorency, who had evinced great interest in the proceedings throughout, strolled away with an earnest and thoughtful air, reappearing, a few minutes afterwards, with a dead water-rat in his mouth, which he evidently wished to present as his contribution to the dinner; whether in a sarcastic spirit, or with a genuine desire to assist, I cannot say."

In case you are wondering, Montmorency is in fact, a dog.


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