Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Psmith, Journalist by PG Wodehouse

Rupert Psmith (the P is silent, as in pthisis and ptarmigan) has been my favourite Wodehouse character ever psince I made his acquaintance in Leave It to Psmith, one of Wodehouse’s masterpieces. Sadly, Wodehouse felt he’d done as much as he could with the character and went on to focus on Bertie Wooster, Lord Emsworth, and the rest. And the earlier Psmith novels, like Psmith in the City or Mike and Psmith, had not yet attained the lofty heights of Leave It to Psmith.

But recently I had the opportunity of reading a really good one. Psmith Journalist sees Psmith holidaying in New York City, where he meets a Wild West journalist, Billy Windsor, chafing silently in the undereditorship of a cozy little paper for cozy little families. With the Editor away on a rest cure, Psmith entices Windsor to leap into a little psensational journalism.
Cozy Moments Cannot Be Muzzled. 
 Before you can say “psychology” Psmith and Windsor are neck-deep on the hit list of an unpscrupulous real estate magnate and playing a dangerous game among the rival street gangs of New York.

This book was extraordinarily fun. Wodehouse didn’t usually show much of a psocial conscience, but this book deals rather passionately with high-rise slum housing. Then, Wodehouse also didn’t usually include thriller elements, but his deft plotting skills—later limited to aunts and butlers—work just as brilliantly on gangsters and hit men.

Through this two-fisted tale of the New York lowlife walks the dandified figure of Rupert Psmith, quoting Pshakespeare and Latin tags, and occasionally needing an interpreter:
A voice from the room called up to Psmith.
"You have our ear," said Psmith.
"What's that?"
"I said you had our ear."
"Are youse stiffs comin' down off out of dat roof?"
"Would you mind repeating that remark?"
"Are youse guys goin' to quit off out of dat roof?"
"Your grammar is perfectly beastly," said Psmith severely. 
 Psmith Journalist is a Wodehouse with a difference. Highly enjoyable and well worth reading.

1 comment:

Mahri said...

I must get my hands on the Psmith books. I have read a great deal of P. G. Wodehouse, but have not come across that particular character yet. There is something immensely satisfying in the way Wodehouse gets his characts into such an almight tangle, and then, miraculously, straightens it all out before the end.


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