Reading Journal Entry: Three Men on the Bummel, by Jerome K. Jerome

Have I already reviewed Three Men In a Boat? No? Must re-read that next week, then.

Jerome K. Jerome is one of those rather obscure authors who well-read but small communities sieze upon and make their own. Three Men In A Boat was a huge success when it was originally published (in the late 19th century). J. K. J. has been mostly forgotten in the intervening time period except by, oddly enough, science fiction fans (see Have Space Suit Will Travel and To Say Nothing Of The Dog, both personal favorites). In my opinion, everyone who aspires to be truly well-read should enjoy Three Men In a Boat. I have enjoyed it often myself. It's probably the best book you've never read. And why, oh why, wasn't it on the list of Top Five Comic Novels that the WSJ issued last month? It's much funnier than Lucky Jim.

But as to the book I'm actually reviewing. I heard that Jerome had written a sequel of sorts and immediately looked it up. Written years later, Our Heroes J., George, and Harris have matured and settled down somewhat. They seek a change from the demoestic routine, and separate themselves from wives, children, and aunts for a bicycle tour of Germany.

As with Three Men In A Boat, Bummel is largely an exercise in digression and pardoy, but with a too-strong flavor of Teutonic jolliness. Germany in 1900 has never been more amusing, but that's not saying much, is it? The bits about the travails of travel and the 'ugly Englishman' abroad are v. v. good. But nothing can, I think, ever touch the freshness, the sweetness, the hilarity of the original.

This version is footnoted, which occasionally came in handy. But the footnotes were sadly lacking in humor. What we need is an annotated Three Men by Martin Gardner along the lines of the Annotated Alice.

I'm glad I read it. I'm glad it exists. But read Three Men In A Boat instead.

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