Posts Tagged ‘Wodehouse’

We Don’t Have Waves, We Have Wodehouse

May 23, 2010

It’s true.  This weekend has been a complete washout when one looks at the board to wave ratio.  No waves, no sunshine, no fun.  Instead it’s been 3 solid days of overcast skies, blustery Southerly winds, and dull hours passing in a way that can’t even be called “idle”.

Who can save us from such peril?

Wodehouse.

Damn skippy he can.

I am a late arrival to the docks of P.G. Wodehouse, but I count myself lucky to have stumbled upon his works.  Being a wildly erratic and absentminded reader, plus a crap scholar, no doubt I should have come to read his works much sooner, but it wasn’t until I hung out with a drunk Scottish comedian with an insatiable appetite for literature that the name stuck in my head.  Somewhere between talking about Evelyn Waugh, the latest Ian McEwan novel, and his Oscar Wilde lecture series, he slurred to me, “And of course you’ve read Wodehouse, my boy, no doubt.”

It wasn’t a question, it was an assumed fact, and this American punk had to reply in the negative.

He didn’t get mad, mind you, he simply expressed a desire for me to acquaint myself with as many of his works as quickly as possible.

Of course, it took me an additional 2 years to remember that advice, and it wasn’t until I was scrolling the shelves of the local Port Macquarie library, searching amongst Vonnegut, Welsh, Waugh, and Wolfe that I saw a small tidy volume staring back at me with WODEHOUSE printed in small but noble type.

I snatched it like a thief and have been laughing ever since.

While he may be just a shade below Wilde in the pureness of wit, what he does have is 90 novels to his credit, which is a luxury to any reader who fancies a particular author.  Woe to the fans of Donna Tartt (myself included), or worse, Harper Lee.  How sinking is that feeling when finishing a novel, reaching for another, only to learn that you have exhausted their output? One feels robbed, if not rightly so.

With Wodehouse, there are no such worries.  There is a veritable cornucopia of Wodehouse, so I can read my fill and know that there will be more where that came from.  Like a more prolific Jane Austen, there is a certain consistency that is a treasured comfort.

I suppose that to champion a writer’s works I should at some point talk about quality and not just quantity, so fine, here goes:  These are well written novels that have aged quite well, tightly written and filled with wit, charm, and style (above all, style!).  They are also funny as all get out, but without trying to be.  There is a certain deadpan quality that I suppose must be part of the British genome.  Finally, I do enjoy reading about young, scrappy lads and lasses who find each other and happiness through a combination of resolve and pluck.  I am a sucker for snappy dialogue and pluck.  Above all else, I admire pluck.

So yes, they generally have happy endings, which is not such a bad thing if you think about it.  It might not be real, but I’d like it to be.

The sun has come out now, so I shall stop writing and start making inquiries of my companions.  Perhaps they can rouse themselves for a wave or two.  If not, I have “Galahad at Blandings” to keep me company, which is not a bad substitute at all.

23/5/2010
m.j.s.