Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Louder and Funnier by PG Wodehouse

This slim book of essays, dedicated to a chap named George Blake (A Splendid Fellow, and Very Sound on Pekes*) was, I think, the very first thing of Wodehouse's that I ever read, more than ten years ago now. Which is strange; because it is not a Jeeves novel, it is not a Blandings novel...to tell the sad truth, it is not a novel at all. It is a collection of essays.

The topics are varied, and range from The Hollywood Scandal, a searing expose on the infamous writing-cages of Hollywood, through Fashionable Weddings and Smart Divorces to Photographs and Photographers. I don't know that I can comment on how loud these essays are, but certainly they are funny.

My favourite, of course, is the essay on Thrillers.
There seems to be some virus in the human system just now which causes the best of writers to turn out thrillers. This would not matter so much, only, unfortunately, it causes the worst of writers to turn them out, too.
This joyous essay then goes on to discuss Heroines, Villains, and Heroes with some vivacity.
Who ever first got the idea that any one wants a beastly girl messing about and getting in the way when the automatics are popping I am at a loss to imagine. […] Apart from anything else, Woman seems to me to lose her queenly dignity when she is being shoved into cupboards with a bag over her head.
From there Wodehouse rollicks on to the Theatre, including a hilarious proposal for a kind of Audience Union to ensure fair play, and thence to Sports and Pastimes, with a close look at the prospects for the Men's Singles at the Lawn Tennis Championships at Wambledon—a tiny seaside village:
We who love Wambledon-on-Sea yield to none in our appreciation of its ozone-filled breezes, its water-supply, its Esplanade, and the inspiring architecture of its new Assembly Hall, but I should have through myself that its tennis was scarcely of a calibre to excite nation-wide interest.
Fasionable Weddings and Smart Divorces takes a look at marriage in modern society—but under the sometimes irreverent wit, Wodehouse has a few serious things to say.
Divorce, which may be either an occasional experiment, as in the case of the ordinary citizen, or a hobby, as with Hollywood film stars, is best described as an ingenious device whereby a resolute man with lots of time on his hands may enjoy all the advantages of being a Mormon elder without having to grow a beard and live in Salt Lake City.
Thoughts on the Income Tax, along the same lines, has something serious to say under all the froth about Revenue authorities singing their demands (“We're needing stack of income tax!”) in the snow.
Not that I should grudge the money if only I had not the feeling that I was simply chucking it away. Where does it go? What do they do with it? One gets the feeling sometimes that the whole thing is purely malevolent, done in a sort of “You would have an income, would you? All right!” spirit.
From there Wodehouse passes to Butler and the Buttled, an indispensable article for anyone interested in the Wodehouse oevre, and on to ocean liners, gambling, and amusement parks. But I will stop here, and let you all rush out and get a copy. I have lost count of the number of times I've gone back to sample the delights of this slim volume of essays, but they continue to amuse me just the same. A delight for any Wodehouse fan, from the seasoned connoisseur to the pigtailed eleven-year-old with freckles and no dress sense.

*But he should guard against the tendency to claim that his Peke fights Alsatians. Mine is the only one that does this.


Jay said...

I just got that book for a hundered bucks. Raised in a die-hard wodehouse family I had always heard of this volume but without means to lay my hands on it. Truly genius this one. I had also read this piece by him on Villains where he hilariously limns the extents to which villains would lay a trap to kill a house fly as opposed to getting the job done with a rolled up magazine. Do you know where that excerpt is from?

Suzannah said...

Yes, that excerpt is from the essay on Thrillers in this book! I know it well!

Unknown said...

Will trickle into the nearest book shop and buy or order it. Wodehouse never disappoints. ..


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