Friday, 12 February 2010

Do You Wodehouse?

P. G. Wodehouse is a name that has lingered in the back of my mind through the years yet I never picked up a single book of his until last year.  I wonder if anyone else is in the same boat?  Wodehouse is usually credited with being the most popular English humourist of all time and he has a legion of fans both in this country and abroad so I did feel a little embarassed at not having read any Wodehouse all these years.  I hadn't even seen the Jeeves and Wooster television series until a couple of years ago!  Crikey!

It was, in fact, the television series that got me into reading my first Wodehouse.  Stephen Fry (Jeeves) and Hugh Laurie (Wooster) were superb and thoroughly entertaining and I loved the banter between the two.  I watched the whole series over Christmas with friends (what a jolly way to spend it!) and simply breathed in the jazzy notes of the theme-tune and the set pieces and costumes of the thirties.  I even managed to get my hands on the very rare soundtrack, which in itself is hilarious, and features may songs of the era sung by the multi-talented Hugh Laurie.

Well, what was my first choice when a year later a Wodehouse book finally caught my eye?  Sadly, the excellent television series spoilt the Jeeves and Wooster stories for me as - upon checking out Wikipedia et al - I discovered that the series took heavily from the initial books.  The plots were still fresh in my mind and I confess that all the constant engagements and dis-engagements in the series grated after a while.  Indeed, a lot of the plots seemed to usually revolve around someone getting engaged to the wrong person (a lot of the time Wooster) and then trying to comically get themselves out of it. So when in a bookshop, I spied the freshly printed covers of a line of Wodehouse novels published by Arrow Books, I was inspired to read him.  The cover and plot of The Adventures of Sally took my fancy and seemed to promise a light and cheerful read.  This is a standalone novel and I was charmed in the initial parts of the book and then the famous Wodehousian complications took off.  I enjoyed it and have since read another stand-alone Wodehouse entitled Quick Service, which was also fun.


I have a teeny tiny collection of Wodehouse (pictured left) and have tried to read the first short stories about Jeeves and Wooster without success, as I know how the stories will end.  Perhaps I need to give it more time?  Wodehouse was immensely prolific and created various worlds and recurring characters, as well as several stand-alone novels.  The worlds of Psmith, Blandings, Ukridge as well as Jeeves are revered in many circles and I feel the need to enter them and experience the magic that so many others speak of.  I confess that the TV series and books I read have not delivered entirely to this degree but they have been pleasant.  I keep thinking that I'm missing something and that I should read on...  Anyone else feel this way or still having to really get into Wodehouse?  To date, I consider E. F. Benson to be my favourite English humourist and I took to his Mapp and Lucia novels instantly.  I feel that I have to work a little with Wodehouse as so many of the plots I've picked up for perusal have revolved around couples in love trying to get married or get out of the wrong engagement.  What say you? 

11 comments:

Book Psmith said...

I do:) My first Wodehouse experience a few years back did not go well but something about watching the Jeeves and Wooster series made it click for me. I do find his plots predictable and repetitive at times but something about the way he can make each book unique still, and usually very funny, has me hooked. I have Benson on my tbr list for 2010 and am really looking forward to reading him. I hope your future Wodehouse reads do reveal that Plum magic.

Rochester Reader said...

Thank you for your encouragement: I shall persevere! I think that the Psmith and Blandings novels might be my next stop. Have you any suggestions on the best book to begin with re Jeeves and Wooster since I have seen the series?
I'm glad you have E. F. Benson on your list and I do hope you'll enjoy it. May I recommend beginning with 'Mapp and Lucia'? This is the first book where both ladies come together. After that you can read on to the next two or try the previous three and you shouldn't feel out of sync. The previous three books have them apart (and only one is set in Tilling) and are not as comical, although I think that 'Miss Mapp'is a very witty novel and one of my favourites of the bunch.
His stand-alone 'Secret Lives' is also delicious and in the same vein, though set in London with a few jaunts to Brighton.
This is the sort of sheer delight that I hope to gain from reading Wodehouse especially since he left us so many books to enjoy.

Mrs. B. said...

Oh yes, I do Wodehouse! He is my comfort read and actually (though it didn't affect me personally) the only thing I could read after 9-11. My LT name is Tuppy Glossop, a character from the Wodehouse series. I also love the TV show though it's a different experience I think. My fave Jeeves/Wooster book is the Mating Season and I don't think it's necessary to read them in order. If you're having trouble getting into them, I recommend, the Luck of the Bodkins (a stand alone book) and thoroughly hilarious.

Rochester Reader said...

Hi Mrs. B! I always thought Tuppy Glossop was such a spiffing name!
Thank you for your recommendation; I have reserved it at the library :-)

Mae said...

I love Wodehouse and he is a total comfort read for me. I always feel safe when I read about Jeeves and Wooster. The only negative thing is that I never remember the titles since they're all so similar so I can never remember what I've read. Sound like a bit of Wooster, right? :-) I think the reputation have somewhat overshod the books themselves so we feel somewhat let down when we actually read them.

Rochester Reader said...

Mae: comfort reading (and laughter) is what I want to get from the J&W and other Wodehouse books. I think my barrier to J&W is the films but I should try harder to forget them... as you say, certain hilarious moments in the books won't be a surprise since I saw the TV ones first. Drat! Should have read them first :-) I usually try to read a book before watching the film of said book (like with 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, for example) but the J&W episodes were soooo good :-) Perfect snuggly Winter treats.

Book Psmith said...

Thank you for your direction with Mapp and Lucia. I absolutely love the Folio set you mentioned in another post but have found an omnibus that is a little nicer to my pocketbook:) Leave It to Psmith has a lot of the engagement drama as well but it is the first book where I met Psmith and he is such a great character. Psmith in the City is very, very good. As far as the J & W, I started with The Code of the Woosters but my favorites have been Ring for Jeeves (which has little Wooster) and Right Ho, Jeeves. The thing I love about Wodehouse is I feel I can jump in anywhere and not worry about chronology.

Rochester Reader said...

It's good to know that you can jump in anywhere. I think I'll give that a try. I must say, I'm really getting excited over Wodehouse again thanks to you lovely bloggers :-)
'Leave it to Psmith' is now on my list. Thank you for your recommendations.
By the way, seeing your avatar and blog header always brings a smile to my face. I love your little cow set in front of the colourful book spines... so cute :-)

Rochester Reader said...

Oops... just your avatar, I should say. Perhaps I dreamed that it was your header too :-) Or maybe that's just the image that pops into my head when I think of your blog :-)

Lulu said...

I'm totally with Mrs B - J&W are my comfort read too. I always make sure I have an unread one someone near my bed, so that when life just gets too much, I can disappear into it for a couple of hours and emerge knowing nothing really matters after all. Every story, as you say, is pretty much the same, and always much ado about nothing, but the detail changes, and I live for those odd wonderful lines that make me roar with laughter.

Rochester Reader said...

Sounds heavenly... This is the year that I really get into Wodehouse :-)