This was, of course, the point from the beginning. As Evelyn Waugh, a great admirer, famously said, “Mr. Wodehouse’s idyllic world can never stale. He will continue to release future generations from captivity that may be more irksome than our own. He has made a world for us to live in and delight in.” Nobody has ever sat down to read about the adventures of Jeeves, Bertie, Bingo Little, Gussie Fink-Nottle, the terrifying Aunt Agatha and Roderick Spode (to say nothing of his black short-wearing followers) and expected gritty social realism.
I’ve also leaned heavily on Wodehouse to make the weight of this year more bearable. Not so much because of the pandemic, which, truthfully, hasn’t changed my life much at all, but because, as Joseph Epstein says in the introduction to his newest essay collection, Gallimaufry, “In the current day, what might be called ‘the general interest’ is being swamped by politics.” Indeed, General Interest has somehow found himself outranked by Major Upheaval. All around the “general interest” side of the web, where you would have formerly seen interesting articles and blog posts, you now see the equivalent of Havel’s greengrocers hanging out their perfunctory signs with all the corporate-approved “revolutionary” slogans, lest they be accused of insufficient fealty to the cause. Thank goodness for the time machine of Wodehouse’s novels, which transport us to a world where sheer, playful delight in language and storytelling is all that matters.
I still have no desire to read the homages by Sebastian Faulks and Ben Schott, though, despite the praise they’ve attracted.