I enthusiastically endorse all that Charlie Cooke has to say about P.G Wodehouse:
I get funny looks when I say this, but I quite honestly believe that the only writer in history who has a better grasp on the English language than P.G. Wodehouse is William Shakespeare. As a general matter, they’re not comparable, of course, because, as wonderful as Wodehouse’s books are, they deal with nothing of consequence. But Wodehouse has a way with words that is not only unmatched, but that is so extraordinarily funny that the best lines stick around with you for years.
…Wodehouse is occasionally criticized for being so light, which he is. All told, his stories are mostly about idle rich people falling in and out of love and trying to hold on to their allowances. But what this misses, I think, is that it is precisely because the stakes are so low that there are so many opportunities for humor.
Last year, I took a collection of Wodehouse’s stories to give to a friend during his long hospital stay. The point of reading Wodehouse, I told him, is to delight in watching someone play with language. His sentences are like wonderful balloon animals, twisted into all sorts of surprising shapes. Yes, of course the stories are silly. In today’s cant, they’re not “inclusive” or “representative” of anyone but the idle rich in England between the wars. But it seems obvious to me that if one could reincarnate the soul of Pelham Grenville in a twenty-first century American, he would find a way to make the vernacular sing in the same way. As for the notion that humorous stories are somehow “lesser” than serious novels, eh, whatever. I have no interest in arguing the point with either insecure young men or stuffy old professors. I think everyday life brings enough matters “of consequence” to bear on us without our needing to seek more out in our fiction.
November 14, 2021 @ 4:14 pm
“Mr. Brusiloff drew his chair closer.
“Let me tell you one vairy funny story about putting. It was one day I play at Nijni-Novgorod with the pro against Lenin and Trotsky, and Trotsky had a two-inch putt for the hole. But, just as he addresses the ball, someone in the crowd he tries to assassinate Lenin with a rewolwer—you know that is our great national sport, trying to assassinate Lenin with rewolwers—and the bang puts Trotsky off his stroke and he goes five yards past the hole, and then Lenin, who is rather shaken, you understand, he misses again himself, and we win the hole and match and I clean up three hundred and ninety-six thousand roubles, or fifteen shillings in your money. Some gameovitch! And now let me tell you one other vairy funny story——”
from ‘The Clicking of Cuthbert’
As a golfer, I enjoy Mr. Wodehouse’s humorous collection of stories about the atmosphere of a golf club. They are collected in: ‘The Heart of Goof’ and ‘The Clicking of Cuthbert’. The quote above comes from the title story from the collection of stories with the same name.
When I read any stories by Mr. Wodehouse, I know that I will experience well written sentences that contain laughter and humor. His writing is a pleasure to read.
November 14, 2021 @ 6:12 pm
I don’t remember if it was “The Heart of a Goof,” but I know I came across at least one compilation of his golf stories. Maybe there’s more than one?
I always remember the part from “Cuthbert” that goes:
“Down in the forest something stirred. It was Vladimir Brusiloff’s mouth opening, as he prepared to speak. He was not a man who prattled readily, especially in a foreign tongue. He gave the impression that each word was excavated from his interior by some up-to-date process of mining.”