Reading my latest book club selection, the 19th century classic The Diary of a Nobody, I couldn’t help but reflect on the parallels with modern day blogging.
The fictional Mr Pooter saw no reason why the world at large wouldn’t be interested in reading about his world, despite not being famous or doing anything of great note. In those days such musings would only be read if a publishing deal was secured, where nowawdays it only takes a small amount of IT savvy to get a blog up and running and available to anyone interested.
And the truth is that both can make for compelling reading. You don’t have to be famous or doing amazing things with your life to have interesting things to say on a blog. Equally, George Grossmith’s perfectly drawn portrait of an ordinary man living a suburban life makes for a brilliantly entertaining novel, which is beautifully illustrated by his brother Weedon.
For the first couple of pages I wasn’t sure it was for me, but I was quickly drawn into the trials and tribulations of Pooter’s failed attempts at DIY (the red bath is a classic), his frustrating interactions with all manner of tradespeople, his hero worship of his boss and his desire to see his son suceed in life in the same small way he has himself.
At book club we talked about the parallels in their father/son relationship with modern day relationships. Pooter struggles to understand the language his son Lupin uses, or the fact that he goes out late at night and is less than careful about spending money. Not much has changed there in the last century or so.
Then there’s the wider cast of characters that inhabit Pooter’s world, including his two friends, Gowing and Cummings, who drop by most evenings to play cards or other games. Who does that these days? And what a shame habits like that have been replaced by nights in front of the TV.
But the relationship that made the biggest impression on me was the one he has with Carrie, aka Mrs Pooter. As the days and diary entries go by it becomes more and more clear that this is an epic romance. It might manifest itself in Pooter reporting a marvellous evening of reading Exchange & Mart out loud to her, but I nevertheless came away thinking that this was the sort of enduring relationship anyone would be grateful for.
For me I’m just grateful this gem was suggested for a book club read. It’s the sort of novel that has probably been on your bookshelf for years, but you’ve never got round to reading. If that’s the case, take it from me that its worth dusting off and entering Charles Pooter’s world for a while.