I finished up Three Men in a Boat, by Jerome K. Jerome (Jerome Klapka), 1859-1927, available via download at Project Gutenberg. For those not familiar, PG collects public domain literary work and puts them online for free download — a noble project that’s been going on for over a decade.
What’s the book, you ask? A travelogue. A comedic non-fiction. The ne’er-do-well of England’s response to Walden.
It’s a blog, actually.
The thing wanders all over the place, much like the men in the story. Parts are hilarious, parts are historically interesting, parts are poetic, and parts are just a bit boring. Anecdotes prompted by the events of the story make up almost more of the book than the story itself.
It cast a gloom over the boat, there being no mustard. We ate our beef in silence. Existence seemed hollow and uninteresting. We thought of the happy days of childhood, and sighed. We brightened up a bit, however, over the apple-tart, and, when George drew out a tin of pine-apple from the bottom of the hamper, and rolled it into the middle of the boat, we felt that life was worth living after all.
We are very fond of pine-apple, all three of us. We looked at the picture on the tin; we thought of the juice. We smiled at one another, and Harris got a spoon ready.
Then we looked for the knife to open the tin with. We turned out everything in the hamper. We turned out the bags. We pulled up the boards at the bottom of the boat. We took everything out on to the bank and shook it. There was no tin-opener to be found.
Then Harris tried to open the tin with a pocket-knife, and broke the knife and cut himself badly; and George tried a pair of scissors, and the scissors flew up, and nearly put his eye out. While they were dressing their wounds, I tried to make a hole in the thing with the spiky end of the hitcher, and the hitcher slipped and jerked me out between the boat and the bank into two feet of muddy water, and the tin rolled over, uninjured, and broke a teacup.
Then we all got mad. We took that tin out on the bank, and Harris went up into a field and got a big sharp stone, and I went back into the boat and brought out the mast, and George held the tin and Harris held the sharp end of his stone against the top of it, and I took the mast and poised it high up in the air, and gathered up all my strength and brought it down.
It was George’s straw hat that saved his life that day. He keeps that hat now (what is left of it), and, of a winter’s evening, when the pipes are lit and the boys are telling stretchers about the dangers they have passed through, George brings it down and shows it round, and the stirring tale is told anew.
Harris got off with merely a flesh wound.
Like I said, a blog.
A good book? Certainly as a photograph of it’s time, if not as a milestone of literary achievement. I didn’t enjoy it thoroughly, but I did enjoy it immensely, and being able to read it entirely on my PDA in text format* was hardly a downside.