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A subtle remastering of classic humour
on 21 November 2012
Like several other reviewers, I found Mr Pooter's book through Twitter, where he is an unmissable comic presence. I'm also a fan of the original Diary of a Nobody, which is one of my favourite works of late 19th century fiction.
In the Diary of a Nobody in the 21st Century, the original classic is brought into the present day. When I first started reading the book I was a little skeptical; surely, I thought, this is just the same as the original but with modern props instead of Victorian ones! However, as I read on I realised that the skill of Charles Pooter V is not in reinventing or changing anything, but rather in a subtle process of translation.
The original Victorian humour, if dumped crudely into a 21st century setting, would not work. Charles Pooter V has translated this humour with considerable skill so that, without changing the substance of the original, the comedy continues to make sense in a modern context. It's a very British form of comedy that derives its humour from the peculiarities of class. The fact that this material is still just as funny today, if not more so in this re-imagining, is a testament to how much class continues to drive our society--even if we like to think it doesn't.
Is this hugely different from the original? No, and a fan of the original book will find few surprises here. However, I think Charles Pooter V's version can enhance the enjoyment of the original by providing contrast, and some modern context (plus charming illustrations).