Book Report: The Wrong Box
26 March 2006, 5:07 PM
Your Humble Blogger was surprised to discover that The Wrong Box, by Robert Louis Stevenson & Lloyd Osbourne, is out of print. It’s a lovely little farce, and well worth reading, if you get your hands on a copy.
The wonderful thing about it, and about farce in general, is how naturally everybody performs the craziest things. I mean of course after discovering a dead body, the first thing that would occur to YHB is to adopt an assumed name and attempt to foist off the body on someone else. The fact that such a strategy is doomed to failure, that it’s an incredibly stupid strategy on the face of it, well, that’s neither here nor there.
Also, of course, there’s the lovely web of coincidence. You see, A discovers the body and thinks that the body is B, and so adopts an assumed name and sends the body off in a box. C, for a lark, mixes up the labels on a bunch of boxes, so the body goes to D. D panics and calls in E, who is, of course, A’s cousin. E and A then adopt assume names and foist the body off an E’s old friend C. Yes, C. Of course, C happens to be in love with B’s beautiful niece, and E runs into B in a bar, and so on.
Oh, and the ending may well be a tad disappointing to those who want everything to end tied up nice and symmetrical. After all, the box in which the body resides at the end is stolen by, well, another fellow under an assumed name, who of course is unaware that there’s a body in it, and the body and the box both leave the story never to return, and we are left merely to imagine what new name the thief will choose, and what box he will transfer it to before yet another failed attempt to dispose of it. No, after that theft, we go back to follow A and C and E and the rest of that clan, and they all make up, the confusion is lifted, and they all go merrily on their ways.
Actually, now I come to think of it, not only do we not see B to his final resting place, we don’t even find out who wins the tontine that starts the plot. That is, we find out where the money will eventually go (as E manages to become inheritor of both the old boys) but not which dies first.
I suppose, in fact, that one could write a sequel...
chazak, chazak, v’nitchazek,