Monday, 20 April 2015

Wodehouse Complete

There was a feature on the radio this morning celebrating the completion of the Everyman Wodehouse - the first ever complete edition of all of P.G. Wodehouse's works under one imprint, all 99 volumes of them. Naturally one's instinct is to applaud - this, after all, was the greatest comic writer of the 20th century, the Master, whose works remain, after all these years, irresistibly, laugh-aloud funny. Well yes, I would agree with all that - but with a caveat: it is only really true of the Jeeves and Wooster and Blandings Castle oeuvre, and not even of the later entrants in those canons. That still leaves a body of classic comedy writing that dwarfs all others of the 20th century, but I have always found that reading the Other Wodehouse (i.e. non Jeeves/Blandings) has been a disappointing experience - too much formula, too much repetition, too much to plough through for the odd nugget of comedy gold. Maybe it's a harsh judgment, but it seems to me that Wodehouse is not a good candidate for completist publishing; he wrote too much, and too much of it was mere pot-boiling. All the same, I can't help feeling that the Everyman edition is a Good Thing and a worthy memorial for a writer who was indeed, at his best, great. And if anyone can recommend some really good stuff from outside the Jeeves/Blandings canon, I'd be delighted...    

12 comments:

  1. Very much aware that I might be uttering the gravest of heresies here, Nige, but I've never found Wodehouse that amusing. He asks us to accept, with affection, a cosy, rosy, innocent world that was already past it's sell-by date. By then the toffs were already tainted and we were already too close to being post-imperial. The fact that he got into hot water as a result of his political naivety might seem to support this. For me there are just too many reservations to suspend to buy into it.

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  2. It's an entirely fantasy world - a kind of pastoral in which culture goes madly walk-about. I think you're being too solemn, Mr Walker.

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  3. Can't help it, Anonymous, if it doesn't do it for me. Many other things do. It's a suspension of disbelief too far. However, I will endeavour to inject more levity into my life.

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  4. I haven't read it,but Farran Smith Nehme yesterday made the case for The Small Bachelor: "Expanded from one of Wodehouse’s Broadway plays, the 1927 novel is naturally much concerned with prohibition (the local speakeasy is called "The Purple Chicken"). In addition to the poetry-spouting cop, the unsummarisable plot concerns George Finch, the bachelor of the title, and his love for Molly Waddington, a girl with a terrifying battleaxe for a mother and a millionaire father who yearns to be a cowboy. Everything unfolds in a way that makes Gotham seem as magical as Blandings Castle." I'll give it a whack, anyway. (Nehme's whole piece, her 'Top Five New York Books,' is located here.)

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  5. Extraordinary! Thanks for that, Jeff...

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  6. Extraordinary! Thanks for that, Jeff...

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  7. Extraordinary! Thanks for that, Jeff...

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  8. Three times! What happened there...?

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