Years ago, I read To Say Nothing of the Dog and loved it. I knew there were references flying past me at every page turn that I had no knowledge of, but it didn’t matter. The book was just fun. A romantic blend of sci-fi with all the Victorian era aplomb one could every want or need — no need for reference catching. I just enjoyed this story of two historians trapped in time, the man dashing in his boater, the woman described as a naiad out of a Waterhouse painting. I’m a little in love with both of them.
But the whole book — including the title — was written in homage to the Victorian book, Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) by Jerome K. Jerome. First of all — awesome name. Second of all — I had to finally read the mother of all references. Nancy Pearl, who I used to follow with regularity before she quasi-retired, is always going on and on about what a funny book it is. And it is funny. Allow me to illustrate:
The narrator when trying to decide whether to partake of a trip down(up?) the Thames with his two other natty friends: It is a curious fact, but nobody ever is sea-sick on land. At sea, you come across plenty of people very bad indeed, whole boat-loads of them; but I never met a man yet, on land, who had ever known at all what it was to be sea-sick. Where the thousands upon thousands of bad sailors that swarm in every ship hide themselves when they are on land is a mystery.
The narrator when his friend has slept in too late on their first morning of travel: There was George, throwing away in hideous sloth the inestimable gift of time; his valuable life, every second of which he would have to account for hereafter, passing away from him, unused. He might have been up stuffing himself with eggs and bacon, irritating the dog, or flirting with the slavey, instead sprawling there, sunk in soul-clogging oblivion.
Simple observation: But who wants to be foretold the weather? It is bad enough when it comes, without our having the misery of knowing about it beforehand.
And, our narrator on a lunch gone wrong: 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.
The whole book was just a wonderful daydream into a time where gentlemen of a certain destiny did not work, did not worry, just boated with friends and reflected thereupon — like a Jeeves and Wooster novel, without all the hijinks.
So as soon as I finished the book, I knew I had to reread To Say Nothing of the Dog. And it was not a disappointment — all the more funny, now that I understood most of the references. And now, with teh interweb in full swing, any reference I didn’t know, I could just google. Or Lougle (your own reference to check). Ned Henry, our hero, was all the more dashing because I now knew about his favorite book. Verity Kindle, our heroine, was all the more lovely and serene now that I knew who she was constantly being compared to.
Always good to reread. Always good to revisit. Placet.