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What Ho!: A tribute to PG Wodehouse

What Ho!: A tribute to PG Wodehouse

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.

– Sheena

The He-who-must-not-be-named of punctuation

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The He-who-must-not-be-named of punctuation

There are several things that I feel strongly about. Matthew Perry wearing a baseball cap backward to portray a younger character. Posers who say, “Silas Marner? Oh yes, lovely book. I don’t remember much of it. I read it when I was four.” People who gobble up the triple word score squares on a scrabble board with words like “quiz.” Yet one thing beats all. Exclamation marks (or depending on how cool you are, exclamation points.)

These things should never have been invented. They’re like that bumptious guy at a party, who thinks he has a great future in stand up comedy and decides to test all his material on you. Fitzgerald said that exclamation points were a way of laughing at your own joke. Writers the world over, heed this man. If you don’t listen to Fitzgerald, who are you going to listen to? Do you like laughing at your own jokes? Do you want to be that guy?

Most feature stories I’ve read use the offending thing at least once, thus managing effectively, to worsen an average-but-bearable story in one fell swoop.

“Everyday Anusha Mikhail wakes up at Four am, packs her kids lunch for school, writes a page of her journal, feeds the cat, does an hour of power yoga and then makes daisies out of sunshine and scattersthem hither and thither. Talk about a superwoman!”

Whenever I encounter a sentence that ends in an exclamation mark, it makes me grind my teeth in fury. My hair, if I may use a Wodehouse, stands on end like quills upon the fretful porcupine. I tell myself it doesn’t matter, that there are other things to live for – More television by Aaron Sorkin, A suitable girl by Vikram Seth, Community season four. I marshal my inner Hyde, shrug and say stoically “whatever. That’s cool.” But the words come out as incoherent snorts.

One exclamation mark is bad enough but there are some chuckleheads who use *shudder* more than one, as in:-

“Gary McDonald sure is a hard taskmaster!!!!!”

Or worse, the kind who sit the fence or try to be ironic with it.

“And there I was, drenched head to toe with undistilled potassium permanganate (!)”

Exclamation marks are a poor cover for bad writing. They’re a lump of cream-based concealer on a throbbing pimple. They hide nothing. They’re sensationalist but unsubstantial. They’re all sizzle, no steak. Keep them away from me. They make me violent.

– Sheena

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