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Book 1

  1. Grossmith, George & Weedon — The Diary of a Nobody (166 pages)

Page count: 166.

No, it has not taken me nearly two months to read a 166-page book. But the truth isn't far from it. I have been busy, so my only reading time has been on commutes when it hasn't been too crowded to hold a book, and some of this reading time has been appropriated by my recent Rubik's Cube obsession. I seem to be averaging only two books a month now and have little time to post about them. But I have a bit of time now and can stave off sleep for a bit. And it is high time I document this. After all, the point of these little book posts is to help me keep track of and remember what I've read; therefore, I had better post before I forget!

This Diary was an afterthought for me. I stood in front of the bookshelves with the two books I had sought and realized I could get a third of equal or lesser value for free. Me, turn down a free book? Never! Diary of a Nobody is what struck my fancy most from amongst the available titles.

George Grossmith was a popular Victorian comedian, singer, songwriter, actor (his first big break was performing Gilbert and Sullivan) — certainly not a novelist. His only other published written work was a two-volume memoir. Think a nineteenth century Steve Martin, and Diary of a Nobody his Shopgirl. Grossmith made the observation that all sorts of well-known persons were publishing memoirs and reminiscences, so why shouldn't an ordinary person. Thus, he submitted periodic tongue-in-cheek diary entries that were published in Punch magazine and illustrated by his brother Weedon.

Diary of a Nobody captures the banality of middle class Victorian English life. Everything about our "hero," Pooter, is pathetic — the clerk's job he venerates, the way he lets others walk all over him, his awkward attempts at social climbing, his son's barely concealed contempt, his attempts at humor — yet I found it difficult not to find him endearing. Who hasn't damaged a new article of clothing leaving the house for an important evening out? Or made a witty remark that fell completely flat or, worse, offended someone? Who hasn't been completely oblivious to a friend or family member's hurt feelings when having a grand time and then felt a mixture of compunction and confusion afterwards? Pooter is described as a "Nobody," but what makes this Diary so compelling is that he is an "Everybody."

I'd not heard of Pooter or his diary living in the States, perhaps because the American persona is so different from the British. Here in London this charming little volume seems well loved, if the number of people who stopped me to reminisce fondly about Pooter's "adventures" gives any indication.

Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
am0
Feb. 25th, 2009 06:02 am (UTC)
Diary
I downloaded a (free) copy to my Kindle after reading your review. I'm currently reading The Whiskey Rebels (also free) and hope to fit Diary into my busy schedule as well.
spwebdesign
Feb. 25th, 2009 07:40 am (UTC)
Re: Diary
I hope your Kindle copy includes Weedon's illustrations, as they are an indispensable part of the Diary.
am0
Feb. 25th, 2009 08:21 am (UTC)
Re: Diary
Weedon Grossmith was listed as co-author but I have yet to find any illustrations (first two chapters). I probably wouldn't want illustrations. The Kindle doesn't render them well, for a variety of reasons (poor resolution, only four shades of gray, etc.).

The Kindle itself is as crappy as any first generation device is prone to be but newer and better stuff is on the horizon. The Kindle 2 shipped today. With 16 levels, illustrations are better than on the previous version. I suspect that something larger is only a year or two away -- large displays are popping up in Japan as signs in railway stations, including some in color -- but it may take a while for the price to come down to reasonable levels, assuming one were to stick with the e-ink technology. The advantage of the Kindle, to my mind, is its nearly instant access to inexpensive works, including a number of free books not in the public domain. The Whiskey Rebels was such a free offering. Many times, though, the books are free for only a short time until their potential popularity can be estimated.
spwebdesign
Feb. 25th, 2009 11:04 pm (UTC)
Re: Diary
I found The Diary of a Nobody online, complete with Weedon's illustrations, in case you're interested. Many feel the story isn't nearly as good without them, which is probably why he gets equal billing though George wrote all the text.
am0
Feb. 25th, 2009 11:27 pm (UTC)
Re: Diary
As I tried to indicate, a book with illustrations doesn't interest me if I'm going to be reading it with my Kindle. The Kindle isn't much good for pictures. I do almost all of my reading now on the Kindle or a computer. I'm seriously considering giving away all of my dead-tree books. Doing so would free up lots of space. I'm going to stop subscribing to magazines, too, except on the computer. I switched my Union-Tribune subscription to the electronic version for reading on the computer, not the Kindle.

My eyes are going bad. I need a bigger type size. I can get an adequate display on the Kindle. I can usually enlarge the type enough on the computer to be able to read. I'm using text-to-voice more and more despite Delia's complaints that the sound bothers her (I've been telling her the way she uses the speaker phone handsets is just as annoying to the rest of us, but she thinks hers is a special situation). I also use text-to-voice to proofread what I write because it makes some errors obvious.

Pretty soon going to larger typeface presentations won't be enough but at the moment I'm more comfortable with electronic aids than with big, clunky magnifying glasses.

By the way, the first page of search results for Diary showed several in other languages and a variety ranging from free to $4 . . . and this was just for the Kindle.
spwebdesign
Feb. 25th, 2009 11:47 pm (UTC)
Re: Diary
I got that you weren't interested in illustrations on the kindle, which is why I pointed you to this website. As far as I know (and admittedly I know practically nothing about the Kindle) this is not in a format Kindle can handle. It's just a website that happens to have the complete text and illustrations of the book. What I've tried to indicate is that the illustrations are an invaluable part of the book, that one shouldn't be considered without the other, which is why the brothers get equal billing.

If a website is properly designed, you should be able to increase/decrease the size of the text with ctrl-+. This won't work with images, of course, unless they're vector-based. You can also get screenreaders, such as JAWS, and other assistive technologies to improve your browsing experience.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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