A short tale of inexplicable amusement…
On the train on the way back from the Derbyshire Dales (my second spiritual home), I noticed a chap sitting diagonally opposite me on the other side of the gangway reading a book. Every few paragraphs, it seemed, he would be overcome by helpless laughter, rocking with delighted mirth.
He wasn’t guffawing or braying embarrassingly, just hugely enjoying himself. That must be one funny book, I thought, idly glancing across from time to time. What could it be, this riproaring ribtickler? A Wodehouse perhaps, even a Tom Sharpe?
… And then I caught sight of the title: it was Anne Tyler’s The Amateur Marriage. Now, this is a very fine novel – I wrote about it here – but a riproaring ribtickler it is not, by any stretch.
I fear the chap on the train probably belongs to that class of eccentrics I used to come across in my reference library days, who would take down, say, the Port of London Tide Tables from the shelf and read them closely with every sign of enjoyment, laughing merrily at who knows what ‘jokes’ visible only to them.