Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Always Delightful P.G. Wodehouse

First, we have to hear a bit from Jeeves and Wooster, especially as Wooster has a spot of trouble with Irving Berlin's "Puttin' on the Ritz."

Now, on to my introduction to Mr. Wodehouse and his delightful grasp of the absurd:

Deseret Industries, I think.

I buy most of my books used, with most of them coming from Deseret Industries, our local thrift store. I love perusing the stacks, looking at the books that people no longer want to read. Sometimes I pick up a good book, one by a familiar author, and wonder why the former owner gave it away. And sometimes I pick up a new book by a new author, and really have to wonder why anyone would give such an excellent book away.

I feel that way about everything P.G. Wodehouse ever wrote.

His airy, comic tales go a long way to doing what Vyvian despairs contemporary British television was doing during his time, thus:

But I don't care. I revel in reading and watching those comical British middle-class eccentrics. As much as Vyvian hates "The Good Life," I like P.G. Wodehouse, because he recognizes that at the base of nearly every human character lies an absurd little soul trying as hard as it can to get out, so he encourages it. As in this selection from "Uncle Fred Flits By," which Louis Untermeyer chose for the TOL:

So when, on the occasion to which I allude, he stood pink and genial on Pongo's hearth-rug, bulging with Pongo's lunch and wreathed in the smoke of one of Pongo's cigars, and said,:" And now, my boy, for a pleasant and instructive afternoon," you will readily understand why the unfortunate young clam gazed at him as he would have gazed at two-penn'orth of dynamite, had he discovered it lighting up in his presence.

"A what?" he said, giving at the knees and paling beneath the tan a bit.

"A pleasant and instructive afternoon," repeated Lord Ickenham, rolling the words round his tongue. "I propose that you place yourself in my hands and leave the program entirely to me."

Now, owing to Pongo's circumstances being such as to necessitate his getting into the aged relative's ribs at intervals and shaking him down for an occasional much-needed tenner or what not, he isn't in a position to use the iron hand with the old buster. but at these words he displayed a manly firmness.

"You aren't going to get me to the dog races again."

"No, no."

"You remember what happened last June?"

"Quite," said Lord Ickenham, "quite. Though I still think that a wiser magistrate would have been content with a mere reprimand."

So Pongo, in the clutches of his Uncle Fred -- Lord Ickenham -- ends up at, well, a comical place. I won't spoil the story. But you'll want to read it, for the comedy and for Wodehouse's tip-toe, tenterhook writing style which, with every paragraph, is both painlessly lyrical, real, and repeatable and also as attractive as a magnet pulling at iron filings. I very often read his books in a gulp, the prose keeps me going along so. Very few authors have the power to do that with me: Ray Bradbury, Terry Pratchett, Harry Harrison, JRR Tolkein, and P.G. Wodehouse. He's in good company, as far as that goes.

I'm not alone in my odd little obsession. This short story has its own Facebook page. Of course.

No comments:

Post a Comment