Saturday 21 June 2008

This book wouldn't elevate a cow

I'm not being mean with the title for this blog post - I'm quoting Jerome K. Jerome's own pithy assessment of his essay collection The Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow.

I picked this up shortly after reading Three Men in a Boat because it was just so delightful and charming, and I was desperate for more delight and charm in my reading life.

The Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow definitely delivered in these areas, but not as reliably as did Jerome's travelogue of the Thames. The familiar essay is something Renaissance superstars Michel Montaigne and Francis Bacon made me extremely fond of and Jerome definitely gets into the spirit of them - unfortunately, his spirit tends disturbingly too much towards the earnest and not nearly enough towards the hilarious in this collection, with the latter being his real strength.

Not that there isn't hilarity, because there is - I laughed out loud a goodly number of times, particularly when reading the essay entitled "On Babies", which Jerome claims to know quite a lot about because "I was one myself once" (p. 91). Ne'er a more compelling claim to subject matter expertise was uttered.

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