April 07, 2003

The Ascent of Rum Doodle, by W.E. Bowman

This is another book I found at the bookstore in the Kingston neighborhood of Canberra. As with The Overloaded Ark it was the title that caught my eye; and opening to page 100, I found this:

All this interfered with the rhythm that is so essential to climbing at high altitudes. I decided to forget everything else and concentrate on the rhythm. I devised a little rhyme to keep step with my feet:

Organ grinders, kings and queens,
Call for Binder's Butter Beans.
Three times daily, knave and noodle,
Eat them gaily on Rum Doodle.

This went round and round in my brain all day, and made such a nuisance of itself that it only added to my worries.

That certainly sounded promising; further, the blurb compared it to Three Men in a Boat, which is a delight. "A humorous account of a mountain climbing expedition," I thought. "Why not?" And so I bought it.

When I actually sat down to read it, I found that the comparison with Three Men in a Boat was a tad strained. Jerome K. Jerome's tale of boating on the Thames is indeed humorous, but in the vein of Mark Twain's non-fiction. The details are exaggerated, but the basic story appears plausible. The Ascent of Rum Doodle is anything but. Moreover, it's of that genre of humor in which the narrator pretends to be an idiot; much of the fun comes from the narrator's misinterpretation of actions and events which are quite clear to the reader.

This isn't a style of humor that lends itself to book length, but Bowman somehow manages to pull it off. It's not in Jerome's or Twain's league, but I enjoyed it, and I laughed out loud more than once.

Posted by Will Duquette at April 7, 2003 05:29 PM