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A House-Boat on the Styx

A House-Boat on the Styx by John Kendrick Bangs
By: (1862-1922)

The premise of the book is that everyone who has ever died (up until the time in which the book is set, which seems to be about the time of its publication) has gone to Styx. This does not appear to be the conventional Hell described by Dante in The Inferno, but rather the Hades described in Greek myth (both of which had Styxes): a universal collecting pot for dead souls, regardless of their deeds in life.

The book begins with Charon, ferryman of the Styx (in The Inferno, he was the ferryman of the river Acheron) being startled—and annoyed—by the arrival of a house boat 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.

First Page:

A HOUSE BOAT ON THE STYX by John Kendrick Bangs


Charon, the Ferryman of renown, was cruising slowly along the Styx one pleasant Friday morning not long ago, and as he paddled idly on he chuckled mildly to himself as he thought of the monopoly in ferriage which in the course of years he had managed to build up.

"It's a great thing," he said, with a smirk of satisfaction "it's a great thing to be the go between between two states of being; to have the exclusive franchise to export and import shades from one state to the other, and withal to have had as clean a record as mine has been. Valuable as is my franchise, I never corrupted a public official in my life, and "

Here Charon stopped his soliloquy and his boat simultaneously. As he rounded one of the many turns in the river a singular object met his gaze, and one, too, that filled him with misgiving. It was another craft, and that was a thing not to be tolerated. Had he, Charon, owned the exclusive right of way on the Styx all these... Continue reading book >>

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Reviews (Rated: 5 Stars - 2 reviews)

Reviewer: - September 4, 2015
Subject: A House-Boat on the Styx
A very creative writer of humor!....good readers
Reviewer: - July 29, 2013
Subject: Most enjoyable
The readings were all well done and despite some of my ignorance of the figures involved, I found it entertaining through the use of language as well as the humor.

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