The Diary of a Nobody by George Grossmith and illustrated by Weedon Grossmith
I mentioned in a previous Book Log that these authors were listed by Nick Hornby alongside P.G. Wodehouse as comic greats. The only book I found that they collaborated on was Diary of a Nobody, though George wrote others. I downloaded this book onto my Palm via Project Gutenberg1.
First published as a magazine series in 1888, I have to quote Homer Simpson to describe it: “It’s just a bunch of stuff that happened.”
In essence, I don’t get it. There’s a website of commentary and critique, in some places calling it a work of genius. All I see is a not particularly witty account of a life of no consequence. Admittedly, one could not claim false advertising considering the title. But from a narrative point of view, there doesn’t seem to be a point.
Perhaps that’s the joke.
Though it is reportedly the only work by the authors that live on with any popularity, the brothers never commented on it publicly. Early reviews are pretty much in line with my opinion (not very funny, not very interesting) and that may explain why they didn’t talk much about it.
Of note, though, is that Diary is thought to have coined several terms in popular usage and adjusted the meaning of the word “posh” (after the character Murray Posh, a rich and successful person) to its present day definition. ‘blithering idiot,’ ‘bread-pills,’ ‘bussing,’ ‘cert’ and ‘chuck’ have references to Diary in the OED. “Pooter” and “Pooterish”, meaning taking oneself excessively seriously, comes from the main character (the nobody), Charles Pooter. I’ve never heard the term, but I guess it’s all the rage at the OED.
I am sometimes disturbed when I don’t appreciate a “classic”, believing for a moment that I must be missing something. And then I remember Lord of the Rings and realize that no, everyone else can get it wrong.
1 I have just noticed that there is a fair number of P.G. Wodehouse stories on that site. a-HA!