Book Report: To Say Nothing of the Dog
2 March 2006, 9:06 AM
Your Humble Blogger has been low on energy and focus lately (as some Gentle Readers may have guessed) so almost all reading has been rereading, and light rereading as well. I took To Say Nothing of the Dog into the bathtub, and was warmed by the familiarity, and the hot water.
I am fond of this book, despite its flaws. I no longer find it particularly funny; the jokes and semi-farce bring a faint smile rather than a guffaw. Semi-farce doesn’t really work, anyway, does it? I mean, if you are going to have a farce, get on with it, and have people in and out and up and down and over and under and through. No point in doing things by halves. Ms. Willis is perfectly capable of farce, although she (probably wisely) seems to restrict it to short stories. Still, even without LOL, as I’m told they say, the book has a comforting familiarity, which I’ve come to think is the point of it.
I mean, what Ms. Willis is poking fun at is the way we use books, particularly mystery novels I think but also Dickens and Jerome and so on, to withdraw into comfortable fantasies. What I think is particularly clever is that she doesn’t mock it mercilessly (Doomsday is merciless) by exposing the illusions, but rather by allowing the illusions to melt into one another, making them silly and goofy and most obviously making them ... well, I was going to say a waste of time, but I think Ms. Willis is more positive than that, as she recognizes that there are positive not to say necessary aspects of our searches for our bird stumps, our recreations of cathedrals, and our escapes to Victorian country houses.
Or maybe it’s just that I’ve been depressed, and because of that I have more sympathy than usual for Lady Bracknell, I mean Schrapnell, and her risible desire to have Coventry Cathedral rebuilt in every detail. Is that retreat (to books we’ve read and reread and reread, like Gaudy Night and Three Men in a Boat and To Say Nothing of the Dog) something I’m reading into the book, now that it gets to include itself in its category?
The grand payoff at the end of the thing is that they stumble on a way to bring back things far more valuable than cats and bird stumps. Or do they? Isn’t Gd, after all, in the details?
chazak, chazak, v’nitchazek,