Parnassus on WheelsApril 22, 2013
Parnassus on Wheels, by Christopher Morley, is probably everything it should be, but I’m still a little bit more delighted by the premise than by the book itself. The premise is this: Helen and Andrew McGill are siblings who combined their resources to buy a farm. Andrew learned to farm, Helen learned to cook and housekeep, and they did pretty well for themselves until Andrew wrote a bestselling book and began to take his own hype too seriously. He started going off on walking tours and things, leaving Helen to run the farm on her own, and she, not unreasonably, got increasingly frustrated with him. That’s where things stand when Roger Mifflin, itinerant bookseller, shows up in his gypsy caravan/bookstore, wanting to sell it to Andrew.
Helen knows that Andrew is likely to buy it, and, having bought it, even more likely to go off with it leaving her in charge of the farm again, so instead she buys it herself, and sets out with Mifflin to learn the trade. And although Helen is fat — according to her own description — and just shy of forty, and Mifflin is short, bald and redheaded, the story goes on very much as it would if they were, say, the caravaning pair in Diane of the Green Van.
I probably wanted Parnassus on Wheels to be either a little bit lighter or a little bit more serious, and I definitely wanted it to be a lot more leisurely than it was, but basically everything is as it should be, and I’m not in a mood to criticize it for not being perfect. I mean, it’s not my new favorite book, but it should be someone’s. There a sort of sequel, apparently, called The Haunted Bookshop, and I’m very much looking forward to reading it.