Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Wodehouse World

I've just finished reading P. G. Wodehouse's Summer Lightning or, rather, rereading Fish Preferred, which was its American title when I first read it years ago.

It hasn't gone stale.

There's something timeless and wonderful about Wodehouse's world of country house parties and purloined pigs, a clock-work  lunacy to his farcical plots, and an eternal freshness to his slang.  (I particularly like his version of American gangsters, missing from this book; they sound like a cross between James Cagney and maybe Woody Allen.)  Wodehouse is a master of the colloquial.  And can the man turn a phrase!  He's a stylist.  A miracle of quotes and almost-quotes, like this gem:  "But the milk of human kindness, of which the butler was so full, had not yet been delivered on Baxter's doorstep."

This particular novel is set at Blandings Castle so, naturally, it is full of pig-thievery and all the split-second timing of farce.  It is impossible to explain its plot.  But its humor!  It has only gotten funnier since its first publication in 1929.

Cover, Summer Lightning PG Wodehouse

Why did I reread it?  Well, I skimmed through the intro at the library...

"A certain critic - for such men, I regret to say, do exist - made the nasty remark about my last novel that it contained 'all the old Wodehouse characters under different names'.  He has probably now been eaten by bears, like the children who made mock of the prophet Elisha: but if he survives he will not be able to make a similar charge against Summer Lightning.  With my superior intelligence, I have outgeneralled the man this time by putting in all the old Wodehouse characters under the same names.  Pretty silly it will make him feel, I rather fancy."

How could I resist?

No comments:

Post a Comment