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Thursday, October 03, 2013

The Diary of a Nobody by George and Weedon Grosssmith

Cover of the Pneguin Classics edition of The Diary of a Nobody
Book Review
The Diary of a Nobody
by George and Weedon Grosssmith
p. 1892

2012 London Daily Telegraph article on the centenary o the death of author George Grossmith

  Ooooooooh goody here comes the English Comic Novel.  Oh brother.  You know who likes the English Comic Novel?  The English, and no one.  Surely, the comic novel has played an undeniably important role in the development of comedy itself, particularly if you include the 18th century English Comic Novels like Tom Jones.  But The Diary of a Nobody isn't a sprawling 18th century proto novel, it's a magazine serial concocted by two authors who were laughing at their subject.  The Diary of a Nobody was serialized in the British satirical magazine Punch and you can almost hear the sniggering of the Audience that The Diary of a Nobody targeted.  It's the same critique that Sinclair Lewis develops in Main Street:  The Grossmiths protagonist is a British version of what he called a "Babbitt."  Actually, that comparison is not entirely apt because Charles Pooter is hesitant to venture out into society, and Lewis' Babbitt is a man of associations and clubs.

  The Diary of a Nobody is literally a diary of this Charles Pooter, but it is made clear that Pooter is a figure to be laughed at.  It's not an entirely mean spirited effort- in the end Pooter is rewarded with a great new job, but along the way he does things like prat falls and breaking glass objects with careless abandon.  Ha, ha, ha.

 It's a blistering societal critique of conformity and the company man to be sure, and I am just as sure that there is about to be a whole bunch of similar critiques in the years ahead.

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