We have been poring over the new book illustrated by Su Blackwell, Fairytale Princess : Seven Classic Stories from the Enchanted Forest, with the stories retold by Wendy Jones. Su Blackwell is the artist who works with old books to create utterly amazing works of art – an image of one of her pieces is on our ‘About’ page. Explore her mysterious papery world further here.
And, just as a wee contrast, how about some utterly ridiculous 123 year old humour? The other day I recommended Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) first published in 1889, when I had a customer looking for something clever, relaxing and v. funny. It has never been out of print, and we try to keep some edition of this on the shelves at all times. The customer took it, roaring with laughter, after I read out a couple of paragraphs.
It is a wryly humorous account by a boating holiday on the Thames that was initially intended as a serious travel guide but the humorous elements took over to the point where the serious and somewhat sentimental passages seem a distraction to the comic novel. One of the most praised things about Three Men in a Boat is how undated it appears – the jokes and writing seem fresh and witty today, and we all know characters like Jerome and his mates.
The three men are based on Jerome himself (the narrator J.) and two real-life friends, George Wingrave and Carl Hentschel (called Harris in the book), with whom he often took boating trips. The dog, Montmorency, is entirely fictional “developed” Jerome said, “out of that area of inner consciousness which, in all Englishmen, contains an element of the dog.”
This is one of those classics, a bit like ‘Casablanca’, that when you finally get around to it, after years of putting it off as just another classic, you think “Wow, this is so, so good. Why did nobody tell me…” I am not fond of mucking about it boats but the threesome’s clever chatter and enthusiastic adventuring ( not to mention Montmorency’s put-uponess) are captivating.
Yes, it is ridiculous but actually it is also sublime – can’t recommend it enough really so I’ll stop raving and start re-reading my copy this weekend.