- Title: Parnassus On Wheels
- Author: Christopher Morley
- # of Pages: 142
“I warn you,” said the funny-looking little man with the red beard, “I’m here to sell this caravan of culture, and by the bones of Swinburne I think your brother’s the man to buy it.” Christopher Morley’s unforgettably weird classic tale of adventure on a traveling bookstore called Parnassus, drawn by a steed called Pegasus. Not to be missed.
Miss Helen McGill lives on a farm with her brother Andrew. Everything is going great- until Andrew becomes an author. It starts with one book of his being published, and soon Miss McGill finds herself running the farm on her own, as her brother focuses on his new career. “He hardly ever looked at the ears Roebuck catalogs any more, and after Mr. Decameron came to visit us and suggested that Andrew write a book of country poems, the man became simply unbearable.”
One day a strange little man shows up with a wagon full of books, wanting to sell them to Andrew McGill. He’s been travelling around the country to introduce the simple folks to literature but now he wants to write a book about his travels, so he needs someone else to take over for him. Miss McGill realizes that if Andrew ever hears about this, she’ll never see him again, so on a whim she decides to buy the wagon herself and go on an unplanned vacation.
Thus begins a very entertaining adventure, with Miss McGill as the star, along with a dog, a horse and the strange little man. If you’re looking for a gripping plot – this is probably not the book for you. However, if all you need is a pleasant little tale with a few surprises and a crew of amusing characters – go right ahead. An interesting concept, a few laughs and a sweet ending – the best companion for a winter’s cup of chocolate milk.
I think the greatest aspect of the book is that, despite its simplicity, it manages to touch on one important point – that being the age-old question: Is it better to read simple, mass-marketed, maybe even badly written literature than to not read at all? You see, my idea is that the common people – in the country, that is – never have had any chance to get hold of books, and never have had any one explain what books can mean. It’s all right for college presidents to draw up their five-foot shelves of great literature, and for the publishers to advertise sets of their Linoleum Classics, but what the people need is the good, homely, honest stuff – something that’ll stick to their ribs – make them laugh and tremble and feel sick to think of the littleness of this popcorn ball spinning in space without ever getting a hot-box!” Christopher Morley writes.
When Twilight came out, I remember how many people complained about such terrible literature spreading like wild-fire. None of these people ever stopped to consider that Twilight, even with its awful story and not the greatest writing, got a lot of teens to start reading. In an age where we have a phone-computer-TV in our back pocket, that’s no easy feat. A teenager who picked up a copy of Twilight has a better chance of finding themselves reading Shakespeare ten years later than one who never even tried.
Through his characters, Morley manages to express the idea that reading should be for everyone, and everyone can find something to read that’s relevant to their life, regardless of whether they’re an English professor or a simple man on a farm.
“‘Lord!’, he said, ‘when you sell a man a book you don’t sell him just twelve ounces of paper and ink and glue – you sell him a whole new life. Love and friendship and humour and ships at sea by night- there’s all heaven and earth in a book, a real book I mean.'”
One hundred and forty two pages of laughs, love and life with a simple, honest and important message. What more does one need?