Sunday, February 10, 2013

Night buses, men in boats and toast-munching toads

I read Three Men in a Boat last week. It was written in 1889 and yet remains genuinely funny and relatable all these years later. There’s a bit at the start when Jerome Klapka Jerome wonders if people in the year 2000 will find their everyday trinkets of interest, value and worth. Which we do mostly. Just struck me as interesting. Apparently the book sold so well and was so popular people in other countries would put his name on books to trick people into buying them. 

Another nice aside, his publisher said, with reference to how much in royalties the book was earning for JKJ: "I cannot imagine what becomes of all the copies of that book I issue. I often think the public must eat them." Which I think is almost as funny as some of the lines in the book. The book is up there with Lucky Jim, also hilarious. 

I was sat on the night bus last night, somewhat drunk, and fell into that maudlin state of staring out the window as raindrops rolled down trying to reach some great thought, or insight or revelation that I was sure was lurking in the dim recesses of my brain. Something about life, or love or work or the like. Of course, I never captured it, if it was there at all: I think the revelation is there are no drunk-night-bus revelations to be had.

However, the event put me in mind of this wonderful excerpt from The Wind in the Willows, a far better book than any dramatisation has ever managed to capture, they all seem to cheapen and ruin it. 

“But Mole stood still a moment, held in thought. As one wakened suddenly from a beautiful dream, who struggles to recall it, but can recapture nothing but a dim sense of the beauty in it, the beauty! Till that, too, fades away in its turn, and the dreamer bitterly accepts the hard, cold waking and all its penalties.” 

My other favourite line in WITW is: 

Toad sat up on end once more, dried his eyes, sipped his tea and munched his toast, and soon began talking freely about himself, and the house he lived in, and his doings there, and how important he was, and what a lot his friends thought of him.

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