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Barbara

Oh goodness, I forgot this was up today. I haven't re-read it because it's one of my comfort books and I know it almost off by heart. There's a confidence about it which John Betjeman picked up on when he wrote,
'Dear Charles and Carrie, I am sure,
Despite that awkward Sunday dinner,
Your lives were good and more secure
Than ours at cocktail time in Pinner.'

Dark Puss

Dear Cornflower I am sorry to say this is the least satisfying book I have read in many a year!

I very nearly gave up after ten pages, but the hope (unfulfilled) that it would improve and the fact that opting out isn't part of the CBG ethos made me plough on to the bitter end. Oh, if only it had been bitter for it certainly wasn't funny. Page after page I hoped that it would raise a smile let alone a laugh but in vain. The slapstick probably worked in Music Hall but as I don't find it funny on the stage it certainly didn't work for me in the book. The same jokes seem to be repeated and I felt I was being endlessly hit over the head with a wet fish.

I think humour is one of the most transient of writing genre and if there was ever a book to support my hypothesis then this is it. It reminded me of looking through late Victorian copies of Punch that I found in a flat I rented and wondering that people found the writing or the cartoons funny. Did I take anything positive? You can indeed see this as a social commentary, although you surely would not read it for that alone. It is a famous book and influential (presumable an archetype for Sue Townsesnd's Mole series) and as such there was some interest in discovering what all the fuss was about (I didn't).

I look forward greatly to next month's book which will surely be much, much better!

Sorry to be so negative, I found this book quite dreadful and I can't pretend otherwise.

Elaine

Oh how sad Dark Puss - this is one of my favourite books, so witty and funny and, at the same time, rather sad as Mr Pooter tries so hard and is so unerringly awful. Yet underneath it all, there ia a rather nice kind man struggling to get out

Sandy

Thanks for including this book. One of my list of 'must read this some day'.

You can imagine George & Weedon Grossmith's creative sparks flying as they created this idea - which I guess was new for its time. And as Dark Puss says, Adrian Mole (and probably Bridget Jones) owe something to Mr. Pooter. I'm glad to have read it but if I had to pack a trunk for the desert island, I feel I would rather have Bridget Jones for company.

I found an artricle on the Wiki about George Grossmith, which you might like to read if you have not seen it. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Grossmith
He was a stand-up comedian who was recruited into the d'Oyly Carte company (a step frowned upon in polite society). In the Gilbert & Sullivan Operas he played parts where fast well-enunciated singing was required (as in the Major-General in the Pirates of Penzance).

All in all, an interesting experience for me, although I think the modern derivatives are more my cup of tea.

adele geras

I am like Barbara! Forgot all about poor Mr Pooter but I do love this book and remember it well...I THINK! Must still reread it as it's one of my favourites. I am making every effort to get hold of TESTAMENT for next month and have high hopes of SANTA producing it...fingers crossed.

And yes, I see that Adrian M and Bridget J are relatives. I like the whole family.

Dark Puss

I see that my Mole/Nobody hypothesis has been the subject of a paper. In History Today; Oct2005, Vol. 55 Issue 10, p28-29 Peter Motor discusses the similarities. I reproduce the abstract here for those who might wish to know more:

"The article deals with the similarities between Sue Townsend's book Adrian Mole and the Weapons of Mass Destruction and the late-Victorian original The Diary of a Nobody by brothers George and Weedon Grossmith. In Adrian Mole and the Weapons of Mass Destruction Townsend sends her hero to a ceremony. Too late he discovers that the front of his trousers is stained with dried evaporated milk. It is yet another of Mole's humiliating moments. Or, one might claim, another Pooterish moment. For as Mole ages, and he is now in mid-life, the more he is coming to resemble his great late-Victorian original, Charles Pooter, the hapless suburban clerk of The Diary of a Nobody. Indeed, Pooter experiences an analogous moment at the theatre, when his patent bow-tie falls from the balcony into the stalls below. The Diary is a grab-bag of all the minutiae of English life at the end of the 1880s. More substantially, if one reads between the lines, the Diary reveals much about the lower-middle-class English life of that day."

The last sentence reinforcing nicely a similar comment made in the original post by Cornflower.

Sandy

Thanks Dark Puss for the interesting link.
Continuing the comparison of diarists, Bridget Jones has little confidence in herself and is perceived by the reader to be a much better person than she thinks. This is rather the inverse of the feelings that I get from Mr Pooter's diary.
I think my irritation with the man gets in the way of my enjoyment of the book.

Anne

I found the discussion and link about Adrian Mole and Mr Pooter very interesting. I am afraid that I agree with Dark Puss, the humour didn't work for me either. I found Mr Pooter tedious and annoying although probably rather decent.I seem to remember a reading on the radio a good while back of this book and I did find it a bit funnier then. I did enjoy the social commentary and the fact that in some ways it equates with life today.

Dark Puss

Anne, possibly the recording by Arthur Lowe? http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/radio-review-1310648.html

Barbara

Interesting and for the record I love Adrian Mole and Bridget Jones, too. I don't see Adrian as Pooter, though. The Grossmiths were laughing at lower middle class life, intending only to amuse in a snobbish way. Succeeding generations (see Betjeman quote above) have contrarily seen something rather admirable as well as funny in worthy LMC virtues. (Has anyone else here read Keith Waterhouse's sequels?).
Sue Townsend has written what is now a series of zeitgeist-y novels each reflecting perfectly the issues of their publication date. They do make me laugh out loud but are also occasionally poignant enough to bring a tear.

Mary McCartney

My Everyman edition of the book showed Mr Pooter as a tall, thin man but I imagine him as short and rotund, with his cringing respect for those he perceived to be his superiors. For most of the book I was exasperated with him but I found the part where he called his boss his 'good master' incredibly sad. I felt that although his character was overdrawn it didn't become a caricature, he was too true to life to be truly funny. Laughing at him would have been like laughing at someone you knew.

blackbird

I quite enjoyed the book but I haven't read Adrian Mole or Bridget Jones so the character of Charles Pooter was a fresh one for me. I found him to be an optimistic sort, in spite of his clumsiness, his lack of thinking ahead and his attempts to look successful to others. He never learned from his mistakes and appeared completely surprised when his actions brought the consequences that the reader could expect. Sort of like some of the teenage boys that frequent my house.

I was surprised at how current some of the generational exchanges were and I guess that just shows that some things don't change.

But, what I enjoyed the most was the recording of the day to day running of the household. I love to read old cookbooks and this journal offers glimpses of how a household was managed- staff, purveyors and tradesmen. But, I think that if I had to face a cold leg of mutton as often as the Pooters did- well, I don't know what I would do.

Mr Cornflower

I'm fascinated that this short and outwardly rather slight book has thrown up so many different reactions. I personally am in the camp of those who have always enjoyed it, but I suspect that DP has a point when he says that humour is one of the most perishable genres. It's like an in-joke: you either get it or you don't. For me Pooter is one of the most entertaining examples of a certain kind of English Everyman, an apostolic succession of bumbledom which runs from Malvolio to John Major via Captain Mainwaring. Not too bright, a touch socially insecure - if not a downright snob then at the very least, in the words of Wodehouse, "somewhat acutely alive to the existence of class distinction" - the Pooters of this world are redeemed at least in part by their basic decency. They mean well. While other cultures have similar stereotypes - for the French it would perhaps be Moliere's Monsieur Jourdain or Flaubert's gormless double act Bouvard and Pecuchet - only England could produce a Pooter.
As a digression I actually think John Major did a better job as Prime Minister than he is normally given credit for, but he was an absolute magnet for a certain kind of disparaging comment. My two personal favourites were "the only man in history who ran away from the circus to become an accountant" (his parents were indeed variety performers) and, on the occasion of an official visit to India, "he brought a touch of grey into their otherwise colourful lives". Nature imitating Art....

Mr Cornflower

PS Having been carried away by my enthusiam for John Major I forgot to make a point which might be more relevant to Pooter and Pooterism, i.e. that we are not supposed to find his jokes funny, we are supposed to find it funny that he finds them funny - e.g. his shirt cuffs are rather worn - "I'm 'fraid they're rather frayed".

Darlene

Like putting on a nice, warm seater. I absolutely loved this book! Mr Pooter's way with a can of paint reminded me of my father-in-law and his makeshift repairs, bless him. Lupin drove me crazy but I have a twenty year-old daughter and laughed at how they both are so sure that everything is going to work out just fine. And because I USED to be twenty I laughed at how you can be a Lupin and turn into a Mr Pooter! Such a gem.

Erika

I can nearly weep for those who cannot enjoy Mr. Pooter. For me he is one of the giants of comic literature. But then, I was raise on complete runs of Punch and the Strand magazine.

Darlene

Oops! That should be 'putting on a nice warm sweater'!

Dark Puss

Erika please don't weep for me! I too was raised on contemporary issues of Punch and found it to be very funny, but as I said in my original post I found Punch from two generations earlier to be deeply unfunny indeed. I am glad that some respondents found this book very much to their taste, but I was not at all surprised to find others who had the same reaction I did.

Dark Puss

Well Mr C. you are certainly correct in that Pooter's jokes are not funny! I just found it sad and perhaps even a little embarassing that Pooter always thinks they are.

Anne

I enjoy Adrian Mole books,indeed I have been known to laugh out loud at them. Perhaps it is because the humour is contemporary. However like Barbara, (particularly in Adrian Mole and the WMD)I would have been utterly depressed if I had not had the humour.
Thank you Dark Puss for the link to the article of the recording.

Sandy

The theme of unintentional self-revelation links Mr Pooter to us, in that we share our thoughts here, no doubt allowing some of our essence to appear on the page (sometimes deliberately).

Maybe it's easier to laugh at Mr Pooter if we are confidant we are not too much like him!

Barbara MacLeod

I enjoyed the book - a pleasant, easy read. I took the opportunity to pass my library copy to my 80 year old gentleman friend who says there is no decent humorous books written any more. He was delighted: "a book one feels one has read but somehow never got around to it."

Elaine

Mr C - I am as one with you on your opinion of Pooter and I remember the sneering comparisons about John Major and this character which made me rather like him. After all a man who gets kicked out of No 10 in the morning and later on in the day is seen on the balcony at Lords watching the Test Match seems to be a perfect example of getting one's priorities right!

I first read this book because of Keith Waterhouse (so sad he is no longer with us, I always used to read his column and his childhood autobiographies are wonderful) but did not realise he had written sequels. These now go on my list...

RankPay

I am copying this list and perhaps spend a day or two looking for them. I would fancy more on paperbacks that the current e-books trends!

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