October 11th, 2014

Six Reasons To Read P.G. Wodehouse

P.G. Wodehouse (pronounced “Wood House” as I learned after pronouncing it incorrectly for many years) was a prose stylist and one of the great humorists of the 20th Century. S.J. Perelman, James Thurber, and Ring Lardner are his peers. I reread a few of Wodehouse’s novels and short stories each year. My Wodehouse paperbacks have worn rounded corners and yellowed pages, but I keep on reading them. Here is why:

  1. Current events. Bertie Wooster and his posse are frequently jailed for knocking hats off policemen. Would they have been jailed more frequently if the police wore webcams?
  2. Political Theory. Wodehouse’s heroes are from the wealthy upper classes, but they struggle against oppression. An aunt insists Bertie marry a mountebank, a secretary bullies a titled pig fancier; these all chronicle life under the iron heel.
  3. Health. Jeeves has a mixture that instantly cures hangovers. This is the stuff of health legend.
  4. Style. Silver cow creamers appear in Wodehouse plots. My grandmother had a porcelain cow creamer. The tail was the handle and the cream poured from the cow’s mouth. As a child, I thought a porcelain cow creamer was the tip top of sophistication. Then I read Wodehouse and discovered that the upper crust has silver cow creamers.
  5. Art. I once spent a day in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London looking for a silver cow creamer. They have a whole herd of them, but the cows all have matchstick legs and flies on their backs. My grandmother would not have a cow with flies on her table. Apparently, sophisticates like flies on their table.
  6. Education. Wodehouse was published in Playboy so modest swains in search of wisdom could enjoy Playboy without looking at the pictures.

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