Thursday, March 22, 2007

Three Men on the Bummel

Jerome K. Jerome 1859-1927

Three Men on the Bummel is the sequel to the comic masterpiece Three Men in a Boat. Jerome wrote this eleven years after Boat and it enjoyed limited commercial success but got a cool reception from critics.

A bummel is a trip with no beginning and no end, just a lot of roaming around and a place you have to be at the end of your allotted time. This book is similar to Boat. George, J, and Harris are back and they plan a vacation from dreary London. They decide the best course of action would be a bicycle trip through the Black Forest. This novel was written during the turn of the century, the most cycling mad era in history. There are the typical machinations for getting the men out of town, convincing skeptical wives, packing way too much, and barely making the train.
Germany itself is described in great detail. Jeromes captures the German character prophetically. The Germans are slaves to authority and can't do much for themselves individually. When they are in groups with someone in charge they can accomplish anything. Som incidents on the trip: a kreipe, a German, late night, male, drinking party. At such an event Jerome advises the reader to pin a name tag to their shirt to ensure they get home after passing out. Harris remembers when his wife fell off their tandem bike and he didn't notice. They make plans to wake up at 6 AM and never leaving before 8. Harris has an adventure with a water hose and a bunch of soaked and angry Germans. The trio constantly struggles with directions, at one point they are so confused they decide to wait out a rainstorm outside rather than heading to an unseen restaurant 20 yards away. The Germans are absolutely obsessed with order, they worship anyone wearing buttons. The most elaborate story in the book involves J and Harris's attempt to temper George's drinking. Apparently the German beer is a little too much for him. It is a very intricate plan that is too involved to explain here, but it deals with lots of drinking and multiple statues.
The biggest difference between Boat and Bummel is the lack of the lovable dog Montmorency. His space is replaced by a detailed study of German culture. Geroge is very cynical and funny. There are lots and lots of jokes I missed in here, either from quick reading or cultural and chronological space. But it is short so I can always go back over Bummel. Seems like the guys had a great time drinking and riding around Germany, but it doesn't quite match the overall magical experience that they enjoyed in Boat.

Rating: 8/10 Reminds me a lot of a sketch show. The characters are put in funny situations and they do funny things. Although Germany and the German people provide a constant thread, they don't have the same power as the Romantic Thames River.

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