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Penguin Classics Diary of a Nobody Paperback – International Edition, August 3, 1999
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About the Author
- Publisher : Penguin Classic; 1st edition (August 3, 1999)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 240 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0140437320
- ISBN-13 : 978-0140437324
- Item Weight : 6.7 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.08 x 0.59 x 7.8 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #4,840,397 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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The biggest joke is that in fact, this diary of a dedicated clerk in an old-fashioned accounting firm, who has done little else in his life and is quite comfortable with the status quo, is eternally priceless on for its comedy and what it reveals about the Victorian middle-class life and preoccupations that it satirizes. If Mr. Pooter and his friends represent a culture that has grown complacent and overly interested in its own hobby horses and etiquette, his adult son Lupin is the brash younger generation that seeks entertainment and gratification without apology, shaking off musty traditions. The Grossmith brothers--George largely wrote this and Weedon illustrated it as a magazine serial--had no idea that they were creating a historical document as much as a giddy entertainment.
The comedy is absolutely winning. The Grossmiths don't sell Mr. Pooter down the river entirely--they allow him competence at work, some self awareness and wounded dignity--but every diary entry usually sets up his hopes and schemes only to be reported as dashed in the next. Long before Rodney Dangerfield complained that he didn't get respect, Mr. Pooter had every right to cry that out as younger clerks, the neighbors, his son, his son's friends and the servants feel free to regularly contradict and insult him. There is plenty of physical comedy and fashion gone bad. And there is that voice of Mr. Pooter, at once plaintive, hopeful, clueless, sweet but not stupid, who always picks himself up after a fall.
"I fail to see" said Mr. Pooter to himself one day," - because I do not happen to be a 'Somebody'-why my diary should not be interesting and published." So publish he does, or rather two brothers, George and Weedon Grossmith created and publish a series of humorous articles for the magazine Punch that were eventually published in 1892 as the book Diary of a Nobody.
Mr. Pooter soon proves to us that he certainly is not a "Somebody" but the little details of his so little life are surprisingly engaging and eventually, as you close and shelve the book, you find that you can feel at least a "warm regard" for this character. Of course, few of us will be able to hold him in the highly pretentious regard he holds himself, or enjoy his "puns" and little jokes quite as much as he does!
But most readers will find they have a chuckling sympathy for Mr. Pooter's struggle for a decent life.
Top reviews from other countries
First sentence, from Project Gutenberg, which is as it should be:
"We settle down in our new home, and I resolve to keep a diary. Tradesmen trouble us a bit, so does the scraper. The Curate calls and pays me a great compliment."
First sentence, from Kindle, which is just odd:
"We settle down in our new domestic, and I remedy to hold a diary. Tradesmen hassle us a piece, so does the scraper. The Curate calls and can pay me a amazing praise."
It doesn't get any better. It's utterly unreadable. Returned for a refund.
Why does Amazon permit this sort of thing?
Written by Charles Pooter we see he is a clerk, married, and in the course of this tale their grown-up son comes to live with them. This thus puts the family in the lower middle class echelon, but as with so many such persons they do aspire to a higher social status. With a servant, and another part-time help so the family live in Holloway in a new villa.
Mr Pooter certainly takes himself too seriously, thus giving us the expression pooterism, but he is a loyal and loving husband and we can see that he works hard. In some ways this shows not only class structure but also the changes that were starting to be felt throughout the country as we headed towards the Edwardian age, so although we still have the likes of Spiritualism and people regularly attending church on a Sunday, we also see through one character, who has his mishaps mentioned in the Bicycle News, the popularity of cycling at the time. We also read of our narrator’s attempts at DIY, and other newer thoughts and innovations emerging.
Not only a social comedy but also having some elements of slapstick this is always a pleasure to read and has been enjoyed by many over the years. I think any family can relate in parts to this tale, and we do wonder if the son will do better than the father, both financially and career wise, after all it is always encouraging when children grow up, settle down and make something of themselves.
Charles Pooter is a clerical worker who has worked at the same job in the same company for years. He has been overlooked for promotion throughout that time. He decides to keep a diary of his middle-class, run of the mill life. In that diary we meet his long-suffering wife Carrie, his son Willie who renames himself Lupin as he feels his real name is too common, some of his less than respectful colleagues and a number of his friends - most notably Gowing and Cummins.
He makes lots puns/jokes which he thinks are hysterical but are actually awful, and his complete obliviousness to this is actually very amusing. He has social aspirations which he can never quite realise. He is bothered by tradesmen who don't seem to take his social status seriously, and ensuing conflicts are very funny.
The diary is really an early example of the type of observational humour which many of our stand-up comics use today. The diary remains remarkably modern/funny even now, more than 100 years after it was first released. Many of the problems Pooter encounters are so familiar even now. He can't understand his son's use of language or lack of work ethic/social aspirations, his friends eat his food and drink his booze without returning the favour, the plumbing doesn't work and neither does the plumber seem to, he keeps banging his foot on the piece of household junk he persistently means to move but never gets round to, the neighbours throw rubbish into his garden and their kids are rude. He seems to have not an ounce of luck, and he is insulted/embarrassed or unintentionally offends those around him at every turn. And yet he is very likeable as throughout all this he strives to retain his dignity.
Whilst this is no great philosophic commentary on humanity, it does exactly what it sets out to. It gives you an amusing, entertaining glimpse into the ordinary life of an ordinary man. If nothing else, it will give you a good, light, non-challenging read whilst reassuring you that you are not the only one who seems to find normal life so frustrating! Well worth a read.