Monday, May 22, 2023

52. Diary of a Nobody by George and Weedon Grossmith

I found this on my parents' bookshelf.  My mom didn't seem to know about it so I don't actually know where it came from, but I'm glad it was there.  Turns out Diary of a Nobody is a major influence on english literature in two streams: the fictional diary format and the sympathetic mockery of the growing lower-middle class in Edwardian (and later) England.

The diary is written by Mr. Pooter, a married clerk living in the suburbs outside of London who strives to be proper and uphold Victorian class ideals and esthetics.  He is hilariously prim and un-self-aware.  He is also always constantly injuring himself in minor slapstick accidents, like banging his head on the window when pulling it in quickly because he thinks a gentleman is arriving at his house and wants to ensure the maid answers the door. He narrates in detail his petty conflicts with tradespeople as well as his sycophantic love for his boss, the gentleman Mr. Perkupp.  Though he is the object of much scorn by many of his fellows and the book is poking fun at him, none of it is mean-spirited.  The writers clearly have a real sympathy for him and it makes the book funny and endearing.  He and his wife Carrie have a very good and loving marriage and that is never attacked or mocked.

As it was initially a series of entries in Punch and expanded when published as a single book, it's not a full narrative, although there are a few narrative threads that run through it.  The biggest is Lupin, their wayward son and whether or not he'll get a job.  He falls in with the bad influence of a theatre troupe. It is a light and quick read, highly enjoyable for those who have an understanding of British culture, possibly mostly impenetrable for those who don't.

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