Two By Dvorak
This Is Why I Keep Warning People

When I find myself in times of trouble...

...P.G. Wodehouse comes to me.

I wish I could think of a witty completion of that thought, but nothing is coming, so I will just press on with the attempt to write a brief post on this Kindle's simulated keyboard. 

I discovered twenty-five years or so ago that reading Wodehouse is for me an excellent medicine for melancholy. It's also quite helpful against anxiety and stress, of which I've had a good bit in the past couple of weeks since Hurricane Sally turned unexpectedly mean a few hours before coming ashore on the night of September 15. We had no damage to life, limb, or property (except for trees), but no electricity for five days, and I started Thank You, Jeeves! by flashlight. (We still don't have internet, hence my composing this on a Kindle at someone else's house.) And the rapidly deteriorating political and cultural condition of this country makes private stresses feel worse. 

Trying to rank the Jeeves stories would be foolish. Suffice to say that this one has done its job excellently, and I've had at least one good laugh and a number of chuckles from every chapter. It's a novel, not a story collection, and I tend to prefer these longer works, which have enough narrative space for things to just keep getting nuttier until the happy ending. It has a regrettable element, though: Bertie spends a good part of the story in blackface, having disguised himself as a member of a touring American minstrel show, and uses the forbidden word several times. Jeeves, interestingly, says "Negro."


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

I have been quite out of touch but I am very glad you’re ok after the hurricane!! :o

Now I’m feeling inspired to read Wodehouse.

Do it! You’ll feel better. Even if you’re not feeling bad.

Thank you. Hope you’re doing well.

Amazing that the 1990s Jeeves and Wooster TV series had an episode based on that book that actually featured characters in blackface, including Hugh Laurie's Bertie.

Funny, I don’t really remember that, but I kept having this image in my mind of Laurie in blackface, so I guess that was a faint memory. I wonder if that episode has been banned now. Serious question: a Fawlty Towers episode has been. I don’t know exactly why, maybe the way it makes fun of Manuel.

I thought of that same episode -- the bit where Bertie has to pretend that he's one of the troupe even though he doesn't have a banjo, so he sings instead, is a scream.

One of the funniest books I know is Booth Tarkington's Penrod, which is a bit like Dennis the Menace except written in a sort of mock-heroic style. I recommended it to a friend who's a bit sniffy about all this stuff, and he started to read it but said he stopped because he "couldn't get past the racism." I felt like saying, "We'll, I guess you can't watch the $@&!% Little Rascals anymore either," the level of "racism" in that series being approximately equal to that of Penrod. I find that whole mentality both exasperating and draining, as if it's perfectly okay to hold people who lived and wrote 100 years ago to current standards of ethnic decorum.

And it is, in their minds. Not just ok but absolutely necessary. If I had a keyboard now I would tell you a couple of instances. What these folks, who are generally all for abortion, never think of is that they themselves are going to be judged quite harshly sometime in the future.

Reading Caryll Houselander's wonderful spiritual masterpiece, The Reed of God. She has a section where she is talking about how necessary it is for us to see that Christ is one of us. She is describing a "heathen" child who the missionaries have converted and who shows a lot of devotion to the fair-skinned devotional art, but who secretly creates his own idol who is black and dressed in scarlet, like his people. The main thrust of the passage is that Christ is not limited to white, European culture and that people can see that Christ himself is "black and dressed in scarlet."

She uses the word "piccaninny."

She is racist.

And, of course, The Lord of the Rings....

And Narnia.

Yes, I'm pretty well thanks, Maclin. I must get a copy of Wodehouse from the library :)

Anyone ever read The Pickwick Papers? Very Wodehousian in some ways. Or more accurately Wodehouse is very Pickwickian. A lot of 20th century British humor seems to have at least some of its roots in Dickens. I remember first reading Dickens in my early 20's and encountering the scene in Great Expectations where the mother is trying to control all the children in the kitchen while simultaneously attempting to feed the baby. The whole thing is a riot, and it immediately dawned on me that "this could be a Python skit." Well, exactly!

P.S. Earlier in the year I had started reading the Wodehouse collection of Ukridge stories, but I put it aside for some reason. This post has prompted me to pick it back up, so thanks!

You're welcome. I've only read one Wodehouse book that was not either Jeeves/Wooster or Blandings, and it was all right but not on the same level.

I started Pickwick once but wasn't really getting it. I don't know why. My defect I'm sure. But as for the general style of humor, which I love, I've often wondered if it's possible anymore. It's very dependent on the contrast between tweedy very English decorum and a crazy transmutation of same. But if the former no longer exists, that can't happen.

Is humor possible anymore?

Ukridge is a chap who is forever coming up with get-rich-quick schemes, the initiation of which always requires him to borrow money from his friends, as he never has any of his own.

Robert: yes. But maybe not that type.

I am on holiday at the moment and have just downloaded a Jeeves book on Audible. I will start listening soon :)

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)