The short list for this year’s Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction has been released. The winner of this UK literary award will be announced next month, just prior to the Hay Festival in Wales. The winner “will receive a jeroboam of Bollinger Special Cuvée, a case of Bollinger La Grande Année and the complete set of the Everyman Wodehouse collection. They will also be presented with a locally-bred Gloucestershire Old Spot pig, which will be named after the winning novel.”
“It was impossible to separate these two books, because they made us laugh so much. And between them they produce a surfeit of wild satire and piercing humour about the subject that can always make us laugh and cry. Money,” judge and broadcaster James Naughtie told The Guardian.
Tomorrow I’ll be delivering a sermon in campus chapel at our schools. If you think of it, you might pray that I do more good than harm.
Here’s something rather nice: An old TV production of my favorite short story, P.G. Wodehouse’s “Uncle Fred Flits By.” It’s a little slow for my taste, and they make some odd changes to the text for no apparent reason, but all in all it’s not bad. David Niven is excellent as the inimitable Uncle Fred. (Now that I think of it, that’s a self-contradictory statement. If he’s inimitable, it’s impossible for anyone to portray him excellently.)
In Wodehouse’s first story of the exploits of Bertie Wooster and his man Jeeves, many of the familiar details are present: the language, Bertie’s aunts, and the predicament that needs resolving.
But there was one notable exception: Jeeves scarcely got a mention. “I still blush to think of the off-hand way I treated him at our first encounter,” wrote Wodehouse. He would flesh him out later. “[A] tallish man, with one those dark, shrewd faces” who brings order to the scrape-ridden world of Bertie and his friends with noiseless omniscience. In that first story, however, there is no hint that we are in the presence of a “bird of the ripest intelligence”, who “From the collar upward…stands alone.”
I don’t believe I’ve ever gotten around to this story. My first foray into this part of Wodehouse’s world was with one or two stories from Very Good, Jeeves, which being written in the late 20s was beyond establishing many of the principles. When I saw that another book, Carry On, Jeeves, began with what you might call an origin story (originally published in 1916), I read through that one before returning to the other. I like to keep things in order.
Jeeves and Wooster came into play for Glenn Fisher the other day when he praised these habit of two writers he admires. “Both JG Ballard and PG Wodehouse challenged themselves to write 1,000 words a day.”
That may be just the idea I need to press ahead with my own goals.
In a 1948 letter, Wodehouse said he liked his Blandings Castle stories over his others because his character Lord Emsworth is his favorite. The dottering old earl, more content weeding in his garden than doing anything else, is introduced in the novel Something New (later published in the U.K. as Something Fresh (the two books are not exactly the same)), Wodehouse’s first story about the quirky folk of Blandings Castle.
The story gives us the young man Ashe Marson, a writer of monthly juvenile detective adventure novels, being challenged by a beautiful new acquaintance to take his life in his own hands and try something new. This beauty, Joan Valentine, soon discovers that the Honorable Freddie Treepwood, reprobate son of the Earl of Emsworth, was once terribly in the love with her and would rather that part of his life never see the light of day. The reason is Freddie has proposed to Aline Peters, daughter of American millionaire J.P. Peters, who moved into a home near Blandings several months ago. (Mr. Peters is said to be “suffering from that form of paranoia which makes men multimillionaires.”) Aline intends to marry Freddie, perhaps more to please her father than herself, but she hasn’t given herself much time to think about it. Her father, Mr. Peters, is an Ancient Egyptian scarab enthusiast. When he decides to gush about them to the absent-minded Lord Emsworth, trouble broods. Continue reading Something New, by P.G. Wodehouse→