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miranda

Wodehouse

I've just been to the library and felt in the mood for Wodehouse so picked up a couple.   I started reading one on the train and was giggling like a mad thing within about 5 mins!  You know that moment when you look up and realise everyone is, or has just been, looking at you........ Embarassed

Anyway, I'm reading Very Good, Jeeves, a collection of short stories and it is Wodehouse on absolutely sparkling form!  Even the preface is funny!


Quote:
The Right Hon. was a tubby little chap who looked as if he had been poured into his clothes and forgotten to say 'When!'
TheRejectAmidHair

Is this your first Wodehouse book? If so, welcome to the club. If your taste in humour is anything like mine, soon you'll be an addict.

Wodehouse was very prolific, and most of hs novels and stories belong to one or other of a series. There's the Jeeves & Wooster series, of course - consisting of 14 books: the first three are collections of short stories - including a few that had appeared earlier on their own), an dthe rest are novels. This series is consistently inspired: only the last - Aunts Aren't Gentlemen shows a dip in form, and that's understandable given that Wodehouse was about 90 when he wrote it. For many, the best of this fine series are the three novels Right Ho Jeeves, The Code of the Woosters and Joy in the Morning, but it would be a shame to miss out on any of them. (There are also a couple of J&W stories that appear in other collections.)

Then, there's the Blandings Castle series, and ... tell you what, there are far too many for me to go through here, so why don't you have a browse around this wonderful site?

http://www.blandings.org.uk/index.htm

Happy reading!
Caro

I enjoyed the PSmith book I read, but when I tried to read a Jeeves and Wooster one I could just see Fry and Laurie there and it seemed unnecessary to read it!  I was thinking of asking whether I should therefore read the Blandings series but our library seems to be getting rid of Wodehouse not expanding it.  

Cheers, Caro.
TheRejectAmidHair

I thought Hugh Laurie & Stephen Fry were excellent, but the scripts were variable. There was far too much knockabout slapstick which isn't really Wodehousian, and the relocation of many of the stories to an American setting was a disaster - especially with something like, say, Joy in the Morning, which is an archetypal English country house farce. And of course, no matter how good Hugh Laurie's performance (and it is, indeed, very good), you do need Bertie's inimitable narrative voice. So no, good as the series was (at least in parts), it doesn't come close to displacing those wonderful books!

The Psmith books are fine in their own way, but Wodehouse hadn't actually found his own distinctive voice when he wrote them. The exception to this is the last of the Psmith books - Leave it To Psmith - a classic Wodehouse farce (one of his best) which finds Psmith in Blandings Castle.

Blandings Castle, complete with the wonderfully dotty Lord Emsworth, first appears in a hilarious early novel called Something Fresh. The famous prize pig - The Empress of Blandings - is actually a later invention: that appears for the first time in one of the short stories in the collection entitled Blandings Castle. By the time of Leave It to Psmith, the Blandings series really got into full swing, and the two that followed - Summer Lightning and Heavy Weather - are among Wodehouse's best. Equally good is Uncle Fred in the Springtime, in which another of Wodehouse's wonderfully eccentric characters (Lord Ickenham - a.k.a. Uncle Fred) finds himself in Blandings.

After this, I suppose the quality declines slightly, but only slightly: the next three novels, Full Moon, Pigs Have Wings and Service With a Smile (the last featuring Uncle Fred again) are all delightful works. (And don't forget the wonderful short story "Crime Wave at Blandings" that features in the collection Lord Emsworth and Others.) After that, I'm afraid, the quality really dips - but there's more than enough in the series already to provide an entire lifetime's worth of pleasure. Indeed, it's often a point of contention amongst Wodehouse fans as to which is his finest series - the Jeeves & Wooster, or the Blandings Castle.
Caro

Thanks, Himadri.  It was Leave it to Psmith that I read, but one of the reasons I liked it was the little romance in it!  The comedy for me was a sideline!

Perhaps I should try another Jeeves and W now that it is some time since the series aired here (why can't we have some repeats of these instead of the drivel we do have?)

Cheers, Caro.
Evie

I *loved* the Psmith books - they were the first Wodehouse I read.

I struggle a bit with the novels, as they aren't very good as novels per se, but the humour is wonderful, and they do make me laugh out loud - I have only read a couple of them, admittedly, and will certainly carry on reading, as I love things that make me laugh.  And the great thing is that I can read them again and again and they make me laugh as much each time.  They are all the same story of course - the Jeeves and Wooster ones, I mean, I haven't read any of the Blandings ones, so those are something to look forward to.

I am a huge fan of the series - though even in terms of that, I thought the American ones were weak, the only plus being the lovely art deco sets - and can hear Fry and Laurie in their respective characters' dialogue as I am reading.  They also ended up with actors changing quite a bit - the first Madeline Bassett ends up as Florence Craye, but the final Madeline is superb so that was a change worth making - the first one wasn't nearly dippy enough.  (I think there are three different actresses who play her, but when they finally settled on one, she was the best - feel bad I can't remember her name.)
miranda

Lord no, Himadri!  I've been reading Wodehouse since I was a kid!    Laughing

It's just that sometimes I feel like reading him and sometimes I don't.  But it's always a joy to come back to him.

Uncle Fred is also one of my favourites.  'Stepping high, wide and handsome....'

It's been a long while since I read a Psmith.  I'll shall have to try and find one.
TheRejectAmidHair

Sorry Miranda - you're obviously a Wodehouse fan of long standing, and I'm not sure what gave me the impression that you were just starting out on his works. I've not been quite myself lately... Smile
miranda

So ..... who have you been then?


Wink
miranda

Himadri, have you read Ukridge?
TheRejectAmidHair

Many Wodehouse fans don't like Ukridge: he's a bit too nasty to fit in very comfortably with the usual Wodehousian idyll, but I think he's a terrific character! I love the stories in the collection Ukridge, but he makes a number of appearences also in some other collections also.

I believe he first appears in the early novel Love Among the Chickens (what a wonderful title, by the way!) but I've never read that one.
miranda

He is a bit of a git, isn't he?    Laughing

Is he an early character?   The date is 1926 so that's very early, isn't it?   Also PG seems to be not quite into his stride.
TheRejectAmidHair

Well, according to the Ukridge page in this invaluable website:

http://www.blandings.org.uk/who/Ukridge.htm

Love Among the Chickens was a very early work, written in 1906, but most of the Ukridge stories were written in the 1920s, when Wodehouse was well in his stride. The very last Ukridge story, "Ukridge Starts a Bank Account", was written as late as 1967 (and first published in Playboy magazine, of all things!)
miranda

Ah!  Just me then!   I find it doesn't flow as well as the J+W and Emsworth stories.   And the narrative isn't as funny.   Maybe it's just the characters.
TheRejectAmidHair

miranda wrote:
Ah!  Just me then!  


Not at all - there are many WOoehouse fans who don't take to Ukridge. He just seems too unpleasant to be part of his usual idyllic world. Ofcourse, Wodehouse had other unpleasant characters too - Roderick Spode comes to mind - but they weren't at the centre of the narrative, as Ukridge is. In this sense, the Ukridge stories do tend to stand a bit apart from the rest of Wodhouse's oeuvre - but for all that, I do find these stories very funny, so I'm not complaining!
Castorboy

I had overlooked this topic so I feel I should put something in about Mr Mulliner from the Monthly reads

Posted: Sun Jan 30, 2011 6:43 am    Post subject:  
The World of Mr Mulliner by P G Wodehouse is the omnibus volume of all 42 short stories told by Mr Mulliner about his abundant relatives, the habitue of the Angler's Rest (aptly named ) where nobody doubts the authenticity of the tall tales! The tales may be absurd and far-fetched but are so entertaining when written by such a master of the comic situation.

In the area of a new meaning for a word, Wodehouse refers to a bimbo as exclusively a male either a member of the Deserving Poor or more frequently, a Nitwit with a private income who spends his weekends at country houses. His females were invariably sweet, innocent creatures who captivated their intended with a smile or a kind word. When they did show a determined side it was to extricate the pathetic male from a predicament of his own making!
spidernick

I'm a little embarrassed to admit it, but I've never read any Wodehouse, nor have I seen any of the TV adaptations.  I've now downloaded his complete works for my kindle and am wondering where to start.  Is it a good idea to read them in a particular order, or does it not really matter?  Thanks.
TheRejectAmidHair

It's a vast output. I'd say that it takes him about 1915 or 1920-ish to get going, and most of the stuff written from, say, the late 50s onwards is a bit weak and tired. He was at his absolute peak in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s.

The Mr Mulliner stories are all delightful. If you want to get into Jeeves & Wooster, start with the collection of stories The Inimitable Jeeves, And the two novels Right Ho Jeeves and The Code of the Woosters  which follow on from each other.

The first Blandings story is Something Fresh which is delightful, as is Leave it to Psmith (another early story set in Blandings), but it's really with the introduction of the prize pig that the series really gets going. Be sure not to miss out on Uncle Fred in the Springtime, one of the very best, and also the two novels Heavy Weather and Summer Lightning, which once again follow on from each other, and which are about as idyllic as may be imagined.

There are far too many great titles for me to list here, but these should start you off nicely.
spidernick

Thanks, Himadri.  As you say, that should get me started nicely.
Mikeharvey

Have you seen any of Wodehouse's plays, Himadri? He wrote quite a few. I have collected a couple - COME ON, JEEVES and GOOD MORNING, BILL (based on an Hungarian play) - but they don't play well nowadays.  He also wrote the play LEAVE IT TO PSMITH (1930) which I have not seen.  The original production had Joan Hickson in the cast.  He also adapted Ferenc Molnar's THE PLAY'S THE THING which I once saw Off-Broadway. The adapted stories by other hands generally fare better like the TV versions of Jeeves and Wooster, and Blandings (with Ralph Richardson). I remember seeing a very funny stage version of BLANDINGS CASTLE with Robertson Hare and Peggy Mount.  
Of course he was involved very much with the Broadway musical theatre, which is another story, chronicled in his autobiographies BRING ON THE GIRLS and PERFORMING FLEA.
TheRejectAmidHair

I don’t know any of Wodehouse’s stage works at all – except for the song “Bill” in Showboat, for which he had provided the lyrics. I’d always imagined his stahe works were re-workings of his novels.

On the whole, I prefer reading his works to seeing adaptations, as I miss the narrative voice in the latter. That said, I don’t know why there haven’t been adaptations yet of the Blandings stories. There has never been a shortage of comic acting talent in Britain. And the Blandings stories rely less on the tone of the narrative voice than do the Jeeves & Wooster stories.

I think, incidentally, that David Jason would superb as Uncle Fred.
Mikeharvey

The Lord Emsworth stories were on TV in 1967 with Ralph Richardson as LE. Richardson's wife, Meriel Forbes was Lady E. and Beach was Stanley Holloway and Freddie Threepwood was Derek Nimmo.   I can vaguely remember them. I can't believe it was so long ago.
Castorboy

The Pothunters is his first novel which happens to be a school story or more particularly a public school story about the theft of a number of trophies awarded to the winners of inter-house running races. Quelle horreur when a school prefect is the accused and, even worse, owes money to a boy from another school for a gambling debt. A pompous landowner and his gamekeepers, a Scotland Yard detective, a passive headmaster, and the boys with their clever badinage add up to a regular potpourri of characters.
Wodehouse attended Dulwich College so it would be natural for him to write his debut novel about a situation he was familiar with. He has been described as brilliantly funny and a comic genius, attributes which are already apparent in this first venture in fiction with its set-pieces of humour and satire. When he writes about the house routine of the boarders, the evening period set aside for homework preparation, the politeness to the masters, the desire to conform to the social values expected of them and their privileged position of being taught by those same enthusiastic masters it brought back to me the feelings of enjoyment I experienced in the year I spent at a minor public school in the middle forties.

This modern edition of The Pothunters is a volume in The Collector’s Wodehouse series published by The Overlook Press of New York with a text as it originally appeared in Public School Magazine, January, February, March 1902 and includes an illustration by R.Noel Peacock which is now used for the book jacket. What doesn’t appear in the magazine I would guess is the dedication to Joan, Effie and Ernestine Bowes-Lyon who must be related, of course, to the Queen Mother.
Castorboy

A Prefect’s Uncle is more about the prefect, Allan Gethryn, than his uncle Reginald Farnie who disappears from the school on his bicycle about halfway through the novel. Fernie has stolen money belonging to Gethryn who feels he has to persuade him to return to the school and so  sets off in pursuit. Unfortunately it is the same day as an important cricket match against a team from the MCC no less and as captain, Gethryn should be there. Although Fernie returns to school nothing more is heard of him until right at the end. Instead it is Gethryn and his decision not to explain his absence from the match that occupies the rest of the novel. So much for the bare outline of the plot: one particular joy, among many, I obtain from Wodehouse’s writing is the conversational exchanges between the boys, who are really young men, with the emphasis on respect, politeness and the knowledge of when to use an appropriate quotation. I don’t mind if it is an idealized version of school behavior, it keeps me entertained.

As Colin MacInnes points out in an Afterword this is the first time aunts are brought into the canon. They are not as fearsome as Aunt Agatha or as nice as Aunt Dahlia but one is the medium by which the shifty Fernie is introduced to Gethryn while it is his fellow study companion Marriott who is entrusted by his aunt with keeping, as she says, a kindly eye on the son of a great friend of a friend.
Caro

I have just read Jeeves and the Yule-Tide Spirit, the title of which would make the reader assume they are all J and W stories, but they are not.  They are a collection of short stories by Wodehouse, and his particular brand of humour is to the fore in them.  I enjoyed more the Jeeves and Wooster stories but maybe that is because I am familiar with them from the TV series.  Indian Summer of an Uncle features them and includes much of what makes Bertie so amusing and appealing.  A Spot of Art was another featuring them and Aunt Dahlia - and another young woman whom Bertie has fallen in love with.  It all ends badly of course, with Gwladys' painting of Bertie which he had been very taken with ending up on an advertising billboard and mockery.

There is a Ukridge story of dogs.And an Uncle Fred one with Pongo trying not to offend him too much and also trying not to have too much to do with him.  And one with Tuppy.

At the end there is a paragraph from Stephen Fry which ends with "That he gave us all these and more is our good fortune and a testament to the most industrious, prolific and beneficent author ever to have sat down, scratched his head and banged out a sentence."  I wondered a bit about "the most industrious" and couldn't help thinking of Anthony Trollope.  There are probably others too.  Barbara Cartland as more prolific?

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