How does one explain the beauty of Wodehouse’s novel to someone? I don’t think you truly can, ever. Wodehouse is more of a feeling, a state of mind than a mystery being solved or a plot that uncovers to send chills down your spine or even a heart breaking love story, the sort that is more than easily adapted and converted to a film, sooner or later. No. Wodehouse is much more and maybe much less. For all of you who still don’t know what I am referring to and maybe are even assuming that by Wodehouse I mean a book I read, google it. I am kidding. Just read on!
P.G Wodehouse was the name of the author, playwright and lyricist who wrote and published 96 novels. I had always been immensely curious about his books since the time I was in school and had heard about it from my sister who devoured every book, especially the Blandings series. Thinking of it as an acquired taste for someone who is heavily involved in literary arts or classic English literature, I ignored the books for the longest time. I won’t deny, it’s pretty much all true. It takes a while, maybe months or in some cases, years, to genuinely appreciate the writing style and get truly absorbed in the world he creates. But when that does happen, its unparalleled and incomparable to any reading experience you will have had till date. I say incomparable because there will always be great books, great authors, gripping plots and story lines, page turners that have kept you up all night reading, mass publications that trick you with their methodology, etc.
But Wodehouse is truly a class apart. And I will tell you why.
Everything from the characters, the story line and the way each sentence feels when you read it is something that has never been attempted before or something that can never be replicated, even if one wishes to. And honestly, how many books or novelists can proudly claim that? A writing style so unique that reading a few lines can only evoke a certain sense of amusement in the reader’s mind. Amusement that comes from the futility of the situation that the author is describing, the tremendous struggle his characters face over things or issues of no paramount importance is a something that is a typical characteristic of every novel. There are chances of getting marginally bored while reading Wodehouse; however, that’s something I never considered a drawback. Because when you read P.G, you read it for the place he transports you to; the old English houses with butlers, British gentlemen with their families and castles and the paraphernalia that surrounds it. You read it for his writing style and for his perspective and the brilliance of writing something where you are letting your reader in on the joke while still keeping him engaged enough to want to continue. It’s pure genius and yet a work of art that has been criticized to be repetitive, frivolous and portraying characters that did not live in the real world!
For me, personally, there is no better way to enjoy a listless day or a cup of tea or a vacation than by reading Wodehouse. And especially, the Jeeves Collection. Jeeves is the butler of Bertie Wooster and this collection is all about their life in London. If you are someone who thrives on a conventional or a less quirky plot when reading a book, then this would probably be a bad choice, because in most of his novels you will find no ground breaking plot or story. But that’s the beauty of it. The fact that you can delve into a book which will relax you and get your spirits up, something that will leave you entertained, amused and plaster a smile on your face all day. Wodehouse does that to you. No miraculous end shall be expected and nothing of great significance might be learnt, but then again, who defines what is significant?
P.S- There does exist a plot and a story line where small elements come together and create a bigger, funnier picture towards the end but these are not books that will be fast paced and quick to consume. They will be unputdownable, but in a very different way than a mass thriller or a murder mystery.
An article in The New Yorker says
Much of Wodehouse’s appeal lies in a remarkably smooth serving up of a verbal stew of rather lumpy elements: English slang, American slang, literary allusions, needless abbreviations, mixed metaphors, fussily precise details about trivialities …
Evelyn Waugh’s praise of Wodehouse, offered for a BBC broadcast, in 1961, got the matter exactly right:
“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.”