Post-Holiday Greetings

Wodehouse: Pigs Have Wings

Some years ago in a period of chronically low spirits I discovered that the writings of P.G. Wodehouse are a wonderful anti-depressant. They’re a sort of literary champagne—light, bright, and bubbly. Or like the lighter works of Mozart. If you’re depressed, they’ll cheer you up. If you’re happy, they’ll make you happier. I find that they make especially enjoyable reading around the Christmas holiday season—not that they have anything even indirectly to do with it, but because their general mood of high good cheer is perfectly appropriate.

It’s hard to say exactly how they work their magic. It’s not that any one thing is overwhelmingly funny, but that a sustained current of wit keeps one in a sort of steady bubbling chuckle or giggle. It’s mostly in the language, that constant counterpoint of slang, bombastic periphrasis, and literary allusion, in which the heavy guns of literature are aimed at the most trivial targets. a butler falling asleep in a chair after a ridiculous adventure on a bicycle is rendered: “Worn out by his unaccustomed exertions in the saddle, Beach was knitting up the ravelled sleeve of care.”

On the basis of this book I’d say that the series of novels set at Blandings Castle seems to be as good as the more famous Jeeves and Wooster stories. The central character, Galahad Threepwood, is a sort of reverse Bertie Wooster—about as goofy and seemingly frivolous, and always engaged in complex machinations, but successful. There is a Jeeves-like butler but he is more often saved than savior. The story revolves around the prospects of a sow known as Empress of Blandings in the Fat Pigs competition at the Shropshire Agricultural Show, but that, of course, is mainly a device around which to spin a complicated series of farces and romances. In the end, as always, those who want to get married do, and those who don’t make a clean getaway.

“…there came from the great outdoors the unmistakable sound of a butler falling off a bicycle.”



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