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A House-boat On The Styx
A Witty, Entertaining, and Wryly Humorous Book You Will Love
The premise of the book is that everyone who has ever died (up to the time in which the book is set, which seems to be about the time of its publication) has gone to Styx, the river that circles the underworld.
The book begins with Charon, ferryman of the Styx being startled-and annoyed-by the arrival of a houseboat on the Styx. At first afraid that the boat will put him out of business, he later finds out that he is actually to be appointed the boat's janitor.
What follows are eleven more stories (for a total of twelve) which are set on the house boat. There is no central theme, and the purpose of the book appears to be as a literary thought experiment to see what would happen if various famous dead people were put in the same room with each other. Each chapter is a short story featuring various souls from history and mythology. In the twelfth chapter the house boat disappears, leading into the sequel, Pursuit of the House-Boat.
Various historical figures travel in a houseboat down the Styx and have several comic encounters. Shakespeare has to defend the authorship of his plays, Dr. Johnson is being shadowed everywhere he goes by Boswell, Demosthenes needs to put pebbles in his mouth to speak clearly, etc., etc. This book has no plot. But, some readers may find it to be an amusing diversion.
You get to see these encounters and more,
- (Noah vs. P.T. Barnum: Which animals should have been saved from the flood?)
- Goliath vs. Samson
A coversation From the Book:Sir Walter Raleigh: Queen Elizabeth could have married a hundred times over if she had wished. I know I lost my head there completely.John Dryden: That shows, Sir Walter, how wrong you are. You lost your head to King James. Hi! Shakespeare, here's a man doesn't know who chopped his head off.
Facts and Trivia:
1. Bangs' idea of setting people in the afterlife (called Bangsian fantasy after his name) is quite similar to a book called God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian by Kurt Vonnegut.
2. Throughout the book, there is a running joke that Shakespeare didn't actually write any of his own plays, that they were actually ghostwritten by Sir Francis Bacon, Sir Walter Raleigh, and other contemporaries. Will always tries to change the subject quickly when authorship comes into conversation.
3. Even in 1895, the book sold for $1.25 and was among the best selling books in the United States in 1896.
Note: This book does not belong in the Mystery/Crime category. It belongs in Humor/Satire.
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