In a Wodehouse novel, a character doesn’t just leap, he “leaps about like a lamb in the springtime,” a girl will not tremble in fear, she’ll “quiver like a badly set blancmange” and when someone chokes on a word, he does it “like a Pekingese on a chump chop too large for its frail strength.” If there’s anyone who uses words with style, it’s PG Wodehouse and that’s only one out of a million reasons why I love him.
I can read a Wodehouse novel anytime. Anytime. There is never a wrong mood and there’s never a bad place. Liking Wodehouse is also a great judge of character. If you’ve read him, you’ve scored brownie points with me. If you like him, I’ll hate you a little less on sight. It’s true. I once met a boy who said casually, “I’m more of a Blandings Castle fan than a Jeeves one.” I’m now dating him.
Speaking of Jeeves, if you’ve read one novel you’ve practically read them all. In that respect, he’s the Aaron Sorkin of literature. You know the plot before you’ve started but it’s all so fresh and new that you enjoy it heartily anyway. When a critic pointed this out, Wodehouse apparently felt very peeved. “I was trying to hide it.”
That’s another thing about Wodehouse. He doesn’t take himself seriously at all, and much like his books he has no clue about the outside world. I devoured this interview in The Paris Review where he couldn’t give the journalist directions to his own house because he had no idea where his house was. Things like directions, are codes, correspondence, even basic current affairs (Jack Kerouac died? Did he? Oh dear they do die off, don’t they?”) he couldn’t be bothered with them. He was just content to sit back and write literature that shines with the brilliance of a sun. And he did it so well; I imagine no one who managed the hum drum stuff for him would mind.
I was reading his Berlin broadcasts the other day and I couldn’t help but wonder. You have to be really positive to see the funny side of a prison camp, I mean geez. The broadcasts make it clear that PG Wodehouse wasn’t made to paint grim pictures. Like his books, everything is sunny and bright and they all live happily ever after. His is the best kind of escapist fiction there is. And when he found out that the broadcasts had ruffled a lot of feathers back home, he was dismayed. “I see now, of course that I was tricked into making these talks and I naturally feel a damned fool.” Dear old soul. Just like one of his well-meaning but errant characters!
I’m only 24 years old and I’ve met at least three staple Wodehouse characters in my life. In my college hostel alone, there was a Madeline Basset who famously thought the stars were gods daisy chain, there was a Bobbie Wickham, a beauty who would always get into trouble and get boys to help her out and there was a pseudo-intellectual Florence Craye (people tell me I’m Florence Craye sometimes, but I don’t believe them and just carry on with my daily life). Without Wodehouse, these characters would have been near unbearable. Because of him, I just find them funny.
Stephen Fry, who along with Laurie, brought faces to well-loved characters said of Wodehouse “You don’t analyse such sunlit perfection. You just bask in its warmth and splendour.” Word.