"I left the room with silent dignity, but caught my foot in the mat."
How typical of Mr. Pooter, the subject of George and Weedon Grossmith's The Diary of a Nobody: prone to minor mishaps, so often the butt of the joke while yet taking himself so seriously. Self-righteous, self-important, his diary is caught on the coat-hook of social standing, the niceties and minutiae of an 'ordinary' life.
We laugh at him, not at his attempts at wit and the situations from which he derives so much amusement, but at the fact that he acts as he does, and from that level we cringe also as he is put down yet again, but so often, despite his vulnerability, he has brought it all on himself.
How modern the book is, though, with its account of the daily doings of a suburban everyman ("it's the diary that makes the man"), like the blog or Twitter of its day. Recognisable too are the Pooters' concerns over their son, Lupin, and the trials of living with that feckless young adult and all the generational differences - slang included - which that throws up; it has a relevance, a familiarity, which makes it bang up to date.
Amidst the farce and slapstick and the running jokes there is considerable subtlety, social commentary and history, so it's an interesting read on many counts. Stylistically it's beautifully distinct - the Pooter voice -, though naming a character "Mr. Murray Posh" seemed almost a McCall Smith touch!
Cultural icon, English archetype (as it says on the back of the book!), or pain in the neck? What did you think?