- 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.