Buck's Reviews > The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle

The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle by Tobias Smollett
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's review
Oct 27, 08

bookshelves: more-than-i-could-chew

Well, that's it. I just can't stomach any more of this red-cheeked, ale-breathed, snaggle-toothed, har-dee-har-har brand of British humour. I made it through 200 pages before getting fed up with the endless succession of pratfalls and pee jokes. I'm talking Farrelly Brothers territory here - minus the subtlety and wit. And while the typical Farrelly offering at least retains, for all the errant semen flying around, a bumbling romanticism, a moronic sweetness, Peregrine Pickle is just plain nasty. An all-too characteristic 'bit': young Peregrine and his cronies steal some fruit from a peasant, then beat him half to death when he demands payment, thus putting his family 'on the parish'. Great fun, that.

None of this would bother me if it were actually funny - as Rabelais, writing in the same coarse vein, can still be funny today. But Smollett is one of the most elaborately and methodically unfunny writers in the language, outside of Dave Barry.

What a bore. Now I need to go cleanse my palate. Ugh.

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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Eric (new)

Eric Thanks for the warning! 18th century English picaresque is a blind spot of mine, and I'd hate to stumble into something as terrible as this; I've been tempted to read Cervantes in Smollet's translation. So, Tristram Shandy? And how's Fielding? I always heft copies of Tom Jones in bookstores thinking, this could be bliss--or a hateful slog.

message 2: by Buck (new) - rated it 1 star

Buck I know I should like Fielding, but I've never been able to get past the first few chapters in any of his novels. Same with Cervantes, I confess. And now Smollet. So maybe I just have a natural aversion to the picaresque. Even the best of it seems amorphous - just one damn thing after another. Too much like life, I suppose. Except for the happy ending and the moral uplift.

Tristram Shandy's another kettle of fish, though. It's ironic and knowing in a totally modern way, whereas the others have a certain 18th century heaviness to them. So if you read Sterne first, as I did, you may find it hard to muster the patience for his more plodding contemporaries.

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