Up the river, we’re treated to a few of their adventures and a lot of musings and remembrances on J’s part (our first-person narrator). Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) is part of all “best humor books of all time” and deservedly so. I’m convinced that writing a funny book without it seeming contrived is much harder than writing a tragedy able to make pavement stones cry. Other great examples: Good Omens, The Princess Bride, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy… This last one keeps coming to mind even though I’ve read it many many moons ago – in particular, I often find myself telling others about the immortal alien who decided to insult, personally, all the living beings in the universe, in alphabetical order. But I digress.
When Jerome wants to be funny he really is. In the introduction to my edition he swears all episodes are true, he just “coloured” them. There were two in particular that cause me some embarrassing moments of spontaneous public laughter: J. transporting a friend’s cheeses halfway though England and his description of Harris’ enthusiasm for comic song. Harris was my favorite of the three travelers, probably because I identified myself with his non-nonsense attitude. I must admit that, like him, I find a guilty pleasure in cutting others’ poetic musings:
If you were to stand at night by the sea-shore with Harris, and say: “Hark! do you not hear? Is it but the mermaids singing deep below the waving waters; or sad spirits, chanting dirges for white corpses, held by seaweed?” Harris would take you by the arm, and say:
“I know what it is, old man; you’ve got a chill. Now, you come along with me. I know a place round the corner here, where you can get a drop of the finest Scotch whisky you ever tasted – put you right in less than no time.”
I generally enjoyed Three Man, but was somewhat thrown off balance when Jerome suddenly breaks the light tone and force-feed us some moral lesson (e.g. here come our heroes, all fun and games and then suddenly see a woman’s body float by, and later they hear all about her story of un-wedded pregnancy, family rejection and suicide). He also often breaks the narrative to muse on the historical events of certain sites and long sentimental passages about the dark night, green fields or such things. I’m afraid I found them a bit boring and kept waiting for the story to go on.
A special mention to the dog Montmorency. If I ever have a dog, I want it to be like him: with an attitude!
To hang about a stable, and collect a gang of the most disreputable dogs to be found in the town, and lead them out to march round the slums to fight other disreputable dogs, is Montmorency’s idea of “life;” and so, as I before observed, he gave to the suggestion of inns, and pubs., and hotels his most emphatic approbation.