For those new to my blog, I am participating in an online book club, hosted by my friend Carrie, who has a popular book blog, Reading to Know. I am the token male member, so I will have to work even harder to prove that I was selected on my merits alone. This month is my turn to select the book. I have chosen P. G. Wodehouse. If you want to join in or see what we are reading, the link to that post is here:
The first half of the 20th Century was not kind to the British aristocracy. The Empire was on the decline, and was eventually lost. Land, once the source of wealth and power, was becoming secondary to capital and manufacturing. What was once the source of an independent income for the young, feckless nobleman had now become a drain on the finances.
Various authors documented and commented on this earthshaking change in society. E. M. Forster and John Galsworthy wrote serious novels. H. G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw explored the new atheism and pessimism. Yeats and Joyce replaced Tennyson and Dickens.
And then there was Pelham Grenville Wodehouse (pronounced WOOD-house), who saw in the decline of the aristocracy a golden opportunity for humor. Remarkable for both his long life and his prodigious output, Wodehouse was one of the greatest and most memorable humorists of all time.
This month, as my contribution to the Reading to Know Book Club, I have selected Wodehouse as the author for the month of April. Because access to particular books varies, and Wodehouse wrote 96 books during his lifetime, I have chosen to leave the choice of books open to the reader.
Wodehouse loved to write about memorable characters, and decided to have various characters populate multiple books, either in a sequential story, or as persons who fit in the stories of others. These personalities are an important part of the charm of P. G.’s writing, and really drive the plots. The major characters are as follows:
Bertie Wooster, the young aristocrat; and his loyal and resourceful butler, Jeeves. These stories are an excellent introduction to Wodehouse. Fans of Hugh Laurie from House should seek out the BBC series Jeeves and Wooster, which are deliciously true to the spirit, if not always the letter, of the books.
Psmith. (The “P” is silent.) Carrie and I are particular fans of this character, who is lazy and outrageous, but manages to come through in the clutch anyway. He is an advocate of “practical socialism”, wherein he appropriates the goods of the wealthy for his own purposes. I have failed to do justice to Psmith, so I’ll just recommend reading one of these books.
Lord Emsworth, whose stories are often associated with “The Empress of Blandings”, a magnificent pig.
Golf. As in the game of golf. Wodehouse said near the end of his life that if he hadn’t wasted his time with frivolous nonsense like writing stories, he might have gotten his handicap below eighteen. Even for a non-golfer like myself, I find the golf stories to be hilarious and outrageously witty. As Wodehouse himself put it, “After all, a woman is only a woman, but a hefty drive is a slosh!”
What am I reading this month? I have selected Uncle Fred in the Springtime, one of the Lord Emsworth books.
I also reviewed The Adventures of Sally last year.