Inimitable Wodehouse – An Introduction.

Naga, dear friend, promptly posted his comments on my last blog, Khrushchev, Gagarin & Kraftwerk. and asked, “What is the connection here?” Nothing except that I read/watched /listened about all the three in one week in April, which, I have mentioned in the blog. Also it was a bit of revenge on him. I have been trying to make him listen to Sanjay Subrahmanyam’s songs – all Tamil compositions – but he is not budging. Since he is refusing to listen to a man’s voice, one of the best in the business, I thought, let me him listen to robotic voices and put Kraftwerk’s Man Machine album there.

I talked about communism and socialism yesterday; so let me start off with a Socialism quote from Wodehouse. This is from ‘Mike meets Psmith’ and Psmith is my favourite character in Wodehouse works. Psmith and Mike meet in a school in Sedleigh. Psmith had this to say to his friend.

“I am with you, Comrade Jackson. You won’t mind my calling you Comrade, will you? I have just become a Socialist. It’s a great scheme. You ought to be one. You work for the equal distribution of property and start by collaring all you can, sitting on it.”

This was written in 1909 much before social revolution happened in Russia and ten years before Mr. Lenin came to power.

Wodehouse was a prolific writer. He kept writing for over seven decades and mostly all humorous works. Some serious writers dismiss Wodehouse saying his writing is not literature. My point is, humour is an important part of life and Wodehouse can lighten any dark mood. How long can you keep reading Tolstoy’s and Chekov and their heart wrenching stories. You need a change. It is the same as watching only Bicycle Thieves and Pather Panchali all your life. You need some Peter Sellers and Crazy boys or for that matter Vadivelu as well.

When I first started reading Wodehouse, I could not understand a sentence, let alone the story. Humour, especially the British one, was beyond me. I also needed a dictionary all the time. And there was this irony. By the time you opened the dictionary, found the word and it’s meaning, deciphered it and came back to story, the humour was lost. I am glad I kept at this, which opened a new avenue for reading. Whatever little sense of humour I may have, must be credited to my dad (acerbic wit) and Wodehouse, the underplayed humour. By the way, I still look at the dictionary when I read PGW, only difference is, I can do a hard press on the word in my iPad and, it opens up the dictionary and meaning.

I strongly recommend to the young readers to start reading Wodehouse. This is the best time. You are either at home because of Covid-19 or working from home. You can start reading Wodehouse from your computer screen and everyone will think you are at work. You have only one downside. Suddenly you will burst into a laughter and people would rush to see what happened to you. Don’t believe me? Try not to laugh after reading some of these quotes:

“The voice of love seemed to call to me. But it was a wrong number.” – 

Very Good Jeeves.

The following is my favourite:

“Freddie experienced the sort of abysmal soul-sadness which afflicts one of Tolstoy’s Russian peasants when, after putting in a heavy day’s work, strangling his father, beating his wife, and dropping the baby into the city’s reservoir, he turns to the cupboards, only to find the vodka bottle empty.” – The Best of Wodehouse: An Anthology.

Or try this:

“And she’s got brains enough for two, which is exact quantity the girl who marries you will need.” – Mostly Silly.

My Man Jeeves
What ho! What ho!

Another gem from ‘My Man Jeeves.’

“What ho” I said.

“What ho!” said Motty.

“What ho! What ho!”

“What ho! What ho! What ho!”

After that it seemed rather difficult to go on with the conversation.”

A typical Jeeves & Wooster Conversation:

“There are moments, Jeeves, when asks oneself, ‘Do Trousers Matter?'”

“The Mood will pass sir!”

Some of his description about people is equally amazing:

“She had face like sawn off shot-gun and pineapple bombs.”

Or this:

“She laughed – a bit louder than I could have wished in my frail state of health, but then she is always a woman who tends to bring plaster falling from the ceiling when amused.”

The code of Woosters.

Or this one from ‘Carry on Jeeves:’

“Honoria, you see, is one of those robust, dynamic girls with the muscles of a welterweight and a laugh like a squadron of Calvary charging over tin bridge. A beastly thing to face over the breakfast table. Brainy moreover.”

Carry on Jeeves.

Some of the conversations from Betty Wooster novels will be forever etched in memory. Like this one. ‘The suit and tailor conversation’ ends up like this:

“Oh, Jeeves,’ I said; ‘about that check suit.’
Yes, sir?’
Is it really a frost?’
A trifle too bizarre, sir, in my opinion.’
But lots of fellows have asked me who my tailor is.’
Doubtless in order to avoid him, sir.’
He’s supposed to be one of the best men in London.’
I am saying nothing against his moral character, sir.”

I would recommend young readers of Woodhouse to start with any of the Psmith novels, Mike & Psmith, Psmith in the city, Psmith Journalist or Leave it to Psmith. Or you can start with stories from Mr. Mulliner Speaking series. ‘The Clicking of Cuthbert” is my all time favourite story. Most of them should be available in Gutenberg.org. So you can get them for free.

Mike and Psmith
Mike & Psmith is a good story to start reading Wodehouse.

Wodehouse portrayed the idyll life of English aristocrats better than anyone. One always wondered what did they do for a living? Lord Emsworth and Bettie Wooster always brought that feeling.

This blog is just to introduce readers to Wodehouse. There are thousands of articles about the author in cyber space. The Wikipedia page is a good place to start reading about him.

Writer Sujatha while recuperating from an Heart Surgery mentioned Wodehouse novels and Azhwar Pasurams helped him a lot during the recovery period.

You need not go that far. Wodehouse, probably the most widely read author of English humour, will help lighten your mood after a hard day at office, or a firing from boss or when you had a fight with your best friend.

 

2 thoughts on “Inimitable Wodehouse – An Introduction.

Add yours

  1. தமிழிலும் வாசகர்களின் அமோக வரவேற்பை பெற்ற,சுஜாதா,கல்கி,சாண்டில்யன் எழுத்தில் இழையோடிய நகைச்சுவை இருக்கும்,அதுவே நம்மை மீண்டும் படிக்க தூண்டும்.

    எனக்கெல்லாம் அசோகமித்திரன் நாவலை படிப்பதை விட பாட புத்தகங்களை எடுத்து படித்து விடலாம் என்று தோன்றியதுண்டு 😃

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  2. While you kept at it ( reading Wodehouse) , I started and gave it up few times. Ended up reading some of his works much later but could not read as much as you did. I had to read almost every sentence mostly two times to get the meaning and then the humour. I still have few in the guest house which I take out and read after having had a tough day at work. Surely a project for me post retirement. Hope some more get inspired to read Wodehouse.

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