Guest writer: Mr. Pond
I have, with no small effort, finished reading The Modern Library’s Best of Wodehouse: An Anthology. I received this rather well-bound volume birthday past from Mrs. Pond who, in addition to being utterly charming with a quick and knowing wit, as well as being lovely beyond compare, is also quite thoughtful. It came with a beautiful card.
I must admit that I’ve drifted off since that last paragraph but have righted myself and am ready to begin. I was dreaming of the gifter instead of focusing on the gift, you see, which would be the P.G. Wodehouse tome, and for that I sincerely apologize. Where was I? Oh yes, I should like to express some random thoughts, and perchance they will end up in the illustrious Anglonerd computer magazine, and you, dear reader, will find yourself reading them. Maybe there will be others as well who take a glance. Dare to dream.
I had first heard of Mr. Wodehouse in a song by the Canadian musicians, Propagandhi, and later ran across his works in a small bookshop that sold such things. There were many of them, to put it mildly, their covers oozing whimsy in bright, bold colors. I was drawn to Wodehouse much as a toddler is justly drawn to knives and other shiny objects.
So, as they say, onto the meat of the matter. Two names come to mind with even the briefest mention of P.G. Wodehouse, and those two names are, of course, Wooster and Jeeves. If you are unfamiliar with this duo, one would first question how you managed to come across this review at all, quite frankly, and I suspect you may have ulterior motives for being here. Anyway, I’ve no wish to judge. Simply get to the nearest library, and correct your error. I’ll wait, but lest you desire others to challenge your anglonerdity, you’d be wise to do so with haste.
May we continue? Let’s. I’d like to say something such as, “what hasn’t already been written about Wooster and Jeeves?”, or “this pair has been studied thoroughly by learned scholars” or something. I can’t, however, as I can’t imagine anyone having the audacity to do anything of the sort. Call me prim, but an image comes to mind of a pimply graduate student humbled before an Oxbridge dissertation panel, stammering while attempting to justify the suggestion of its serious study while sweating his or her socks.
Now then, onward towards the thoughts that were formerly promised. If you think that I’ve forgotten what this is about, well, I must attest to small detours along the way, but now my path is clear. So P.G. Wodehouse has made his mark with a vast amount of books which multiplied like rabbits and came to a little under a hundred at final count. How did he do this you ask, or maybe you didn’t, but I’ll put in my 2 cents anyway. Essentially, what you are reading here is the same cacophony again and again. And again. Yes, the names change sometimes and locations move about, but there are aunts, uncles, fiancees, nitwitted saps, and devious behavior aplenty, with a few animals thrown in for good measure. There you have it. The plots are as complex as they are forgettable with nothing so distracting as a theme or point to get in the way. There are country homes, domestics, rifles, much fuss over dress, and searing hangovers in droves.
Now, in case you’re an angered fan at this point, please refrain from assaulting me with rotten vegetables. Perhaps, if you read a bit more, you’ll save a trip to the cleaners. There are definitely pluses to be had and mountains of cheap fun to enjoy. Jeeves, Uncle Fred, and Ukridge, stand out among the rest, as do a myriad of side characters, causing mischief and muddling to no end.
One may wonder why an author of such tripe has managed to endure. Yes, I called it tripe, and not just because the Empress. She’s a pig, you see, but I digress. The answer to why people continue to read him is shown in the writing. Wodehouse is extremely clever and he keeps dishing it out, plate after plate. His work is an explosion of great lines and absurdity that diminishes the import of the complete banality of it all. A better reviewer would toss in a couple notable quotables here but I have a sandwich waiting and would rather get on with it. Just read one and you’ll agree.
Which leads me to the reading part. The short stories are a blessing as they limit the shenanigans to a more digestible level, and the two novels that are included in this collection end quickly, giving the reader a breather after what has been a most bumpy ride. Choose your poison from the vast collection here at will, and at your peril. I take no responsibility for what happens after. The order doesn’t matter in the least. There is a nice introduction if you’d like and a fancy timeline. Mr. Wodehouse had a full life so some of that is worth a gander. It also comes with a nice yellow ribbon built in as a bookmark so you won’t have to worry about dropping your place marker down into the seat cushion.
“The Nodder”, “The Amazing Hat Mystery”, “The Editor Regrets”, “Uncle Fred Flits By”, and anything with Jeeves in it are standouts, but my favorite was the autobiography, from Over Seventy. The forward had me giggling and jumping around like a child who’s had more than his share of cake. The Best of Wodehouse is certainly much more Wodehouse than should be considered healthy, but it’s easy on the brain and may bide some time when time needs bidden.
Might I suggest swapping the dust cover for another book in your collection before the guests arrive.
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