This month's Author Feature stars one of my favorite authors, one who has enriched English literature and made us all laugh in the process.
Brief Bio: Pelham Grenville Wodehouse was born in Guildford in 1881. His father was a judge, and he and his brothers rarely saw their parents, spending their childhood in a variety of boarding schools. After school, he found a job at HongKong and Shanghai Bank (HSBC), while writing part-time for The Globe newspaper. He went on to write for a variety of papers and magazines, including Punch, Vanity Fair and The Saturday Evening Post. During the war, Wodehouse lived in France, and was imprisoned by the Germans for nearly a year. After unfounded accusations of treason, he moved permanently to New York. Wodehouse died on Valentines Day in 1975, shortly after being awarded the Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire. To learn more about him, you can visit www.pgwodehousebooks.com
Thank You Jeeves
Very Good Jeeves
Jeeves in the Offing
Code of the Woosters
Uncle Fred in the Springtime
Meet Mr. Mulliner
What would literature be without Wodehouse? A lot less fun, to be sure. Wodehouse is one of the greatest writers I've read, and I think English would be quite boring if he hadn't been around.
My first introduction to Wodehouse was my dad guffawing during his reading of Galahad at Blandings. I wondered what was it that made my dad laugh so much, so I borrowed the book one day and sat down to read it. And I have never looked back. I've read nearly all the Jeeves and Emsworth stories, and I enjoyed all of them.
What I enjoy most about Wodehouse's writing are the intricacies of the plot. There is a standard formula: one of the characters gets into a fix, or two lovebirds have a tiff and get engaged to unsuitable people. But every situation is different, every plot element fresh. As you read, a problem that appeared to be standard and easily solved develops layers which become increasingly complex, and you think the hero can never get out of it. But there is one character who saves the day, the wits of whom gets everyone out of their respective messes and reach satisfactory conclusions. One example which comes to mind is Code of the Woosters. Bertie becomes engaged to the soupy Madeline Bassett, has to steal a cow-creamer belonging to Madeline's father, get Gussie Fink-Nottle and Madeline back together so that his engagement to Madeline is broken, recover a notebook where Gussie has detailed the failings of Madeline's father so that neither father nor daughter see it, outwit Roderick Spode, and stay out of jail. Confused? I was, too, and I was pretty sure Bertie couldn't escape unscathed. But Jeeves made it all right, with a flourish that had me cheering.
Wodehouse's cast of characters are memorable, and nobody who reads about Bertie or Jeeves or Emsworth or Galahad, can easily forget them. Each character is unique in himself, even the smaller ones. My favorite character is the loony Lord Emsworth. When he starts talking about his pig, Empress of Blandings, I can't stop laughing. Most plot elements set in Blandings Castle figure the pig in a major role. People are trying to kidnap the pig, or make it lose weight, things that make Emsworth's hair stand on end, and are the driving element of the story. Out of the smaller characters, I particularly like Beach, and the description of his portly nature cannot fail to crack you up. And Baxter, Emsworth's long-suffering secretary, who tries to impress his employer buts ends up being berated by him.
There are many more great people in Wodehouse's world, such as Uncle Fred, Psmith, Monty Bodkin, Ukridge and Mr. Mulliner. Wodehouse was very prolific and wrote 96 books in his 73-year long career. I have read most of them, except some of his earlier works, and his last novel, Sunset at Blandings. That book was released in its unfinished form, with Wodehouse's extensive notes, but I don't want to read it. There is something very disheartening in reading an author's last unfinished work; it reminds me that he is no more and he couldn't finish what he had started.
Anybody can make someone cry, but the greatest challenge is to make another person laugh. That is what Wodehouse did all his life, and did it masterfully. On his birth anniversary, that is how I'd like to remember P.G.Wodehouse.
Do you love Wodehouse as much as I do? Which is your favorite Wodehouse novel?