Smautf has been in Bartlebooth’s service for more than fifty years. Although he calls himself a a butler, his services have been more those of gentleman’s gentleman or secretary; or, to be even more precise, both at the same time: in fact, he was above all his master’s travelling companion, his factotum, and if not his Sancho Panza at least his Passepartout (for there was indeed a touch of Phileas Fogg in Bartlebooth), in turns porter, clothes valet, barber, driver, guide, treasure, travel agent, and umbrella holder. (p. 52 of the Vintage edition)
If I hadn’t read Jules Verne’s Around The The World in 80 Days, I’d have no idea what the above reference was about. And so it is with more than half the names, or events, I encounter; I feel I should know of them, or they should at least ring a bell, but alas, my cultural literacy seems to be sorely lacking.
However, I will continue on because the book is fascinating. (Murakami long ago prepared me for reading that which didn’t make complete sense to me.)
And, I got a fabulous haircut yesterday so all is not lost.
Addendum: It’s now 9:50 p.m., I’m on page 170, and I’m finally into it. I’ve given up trying to place a context for every name, every situation, and have given myself over to the characters. They are charming, they are flawed, and I’m getting the sense that this novel, called a manual for life, is really a spoof on what we’ve turned our lives into. More to follow as the discussion takes place with Richard as our host on April 30.