Friday, 26 November 2010

Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog)

by Jerome K. Jerome

After all these years in England, I am yet to meet an Englishman who actually read this book (as opposed to read about the book). Shocking! When I were a lad, which was back in Soviet space-time, it seemed that everybody read it. And for a good reason.

Chances are that every now and then you will come across one of them lists of “one hundred (for example) books to read before you die” which inevitably have War and Peace, Ulysses and The Lord of the Rings. But not Three Men in a Boat. Why? True, Jerome is not Tolstoy. Thank goodness! This book is guaranteed to never bore you to death. Moreover, you’ll want to re-read it on regular basis. From any place, for its chapters have these useful as well as hilarious summaries that help you to get to your favourite bit quickly:

The food question — Objections to paraffin oil as an atmosphere — Advantages of cheese as a travelling companion — A married woman deserts her home — Further provisions for getting upset — I pack — Cussedness of tooth-brushes — George and Harris pack — Awful behaviour of Montmorency — We retire to rest.
I’ve got this very cute Bloomsbury Classics edition which fits perfectly in the pocket of my fleece: another advantage over War and Peace.

I don’t know why it should be, but everybody is always so exceptionally irritable on the river. Little mishaps, that you would hardly notice on dry land, drive you nearly frantic with rage, when they occur on the water. When Harris or George makes an ass of himself on dry land, I smile indulgently; when they behave in a chuckle-head way on the river, I use the most blood-curdling language to them. When another boat gets in my way, I feel I want to take an oar and kill all the people in it.

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