All I need to be entertained are cats within ear-scratching distance and a good book . . .OK, maybe that's not ALL I need, but it's a good start.

I love to read. And I love to get recommendations for books to read.

I started Cats and a Book to share the books I read with others. Some I love, some I don't, but you may love the ones I don't, so you're welcome to post your own comments and suggestions.

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Happy reading!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog), by Jerome K. Jerome

Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog), is a delightfully silly romp about a hypochondriac and his two close friends (and the dog, Montmorency) who decide to take a boat trip on the Thames. Written by Jerome K. Jerome
 and published in 1890 by Henry Holt and Company, the book opens as the central character decides to research some minor symptoms he has. He discovers to his “horror” as he reads through a medical dictionary, that he has symptoms of everything in the book from ague through cholera and diphtheria, all the way to zymosis, until he determines that he suffers from everything but housemaid’s knee. This discovery leads him to decide that a boat vacation would not only help his symptoms, but soothe the stress of his friends, Harris and George, as well.

Of course, the theory of a boating vacation exceeds the actual experience. Lack of boating skill and overstated ability to camp and cook outside is a source of witty anecdotes and stories which often culminate in the friends turning on each other and hurling insults. Even the dog becomes “sarcastic.” Montmorency, whose “ambition in life is to get in the way and be sworn at” so that “he feels his day is not wasted” is a charming addition to the trip. Jerome writes, “To get somebody to stumble over him, and curse him steadily for an hour, is his highest aim and object; and, when he has succeeded in accomplishing this, his conceit becomes quite unbearable.”

Jerome intersperses bits of useful advice throughout the story, philosophical meanderings that are meaningful and applicable to the reader. For example, as he is relating the extent of the packing the friends do for the trip, he concludes, “Let your boat of life be light, packed with only what you need—a homely home and simple pleasures, one or two friends, worth the name, some one to love and some one to love you, a cat, a dog, and a pipe or two, enough to eat and enough to wear, and a little more than enough to drink . . . You will find the boat easier to pull then, and it will not be so liable to upset, and it will not matter so much if it does upset . . .”

A quick and entertaining read, Three Men in a Boat is almost as funny now as it would have been in the late 1890s--only “almost” as funny because a few of the references might be lost on modern, American readers, but that shouldn’t discourage anyone who would enjoy a witty diversion from heavier tomes. Three Men in a Boat is available free as a Google eBook.

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