Whether I've got my nose in The Adventures of Sally, Leave it to Psmith, or any of the classic Jeeves tales, I read Wodehouse to remember how much fun it can be to string words together. What more can a writer ask from a summer beach read?
The Adventures of Sally
By PG Wodehouse
Penguin, 1997 (first published 1922)
Reading P. G. Wodehouse reminds me how much fun writing can be
It helps that I find Wodehouse to be effortlessly funny, which makes me much more inclined to take him along on my summer vacations.
Some reviewers disparage Wodehouse for failing to provide sufficiently deep characterization or plots with substance. To me, that sort of talk misses the point. Wodehouse revels in language.
The things that man can do to a cliché!
Whether I’ve got my nose in The Adventures of Sally, Leave it to Psmith, or any of the classic Jeeves tales, I read Wodehouse to remember how much fun it can be to string words together and I am never disappointed.
What more can a writer ask for from a summer book?
What I mean by that
Update (November 2019): As you'll see in the comments, reader Dani wrote in to ask what I meant by "the things that man can do to a cliche!", so since I'm no longer on vacation I thought I'd update this post with more information on what I was thinking.
Sometimes it’s as simple as reducing cliches to their abbreviations and letting the reader’s mind fill in the rest. Often, Wodehouse will simply write “b. and e.” instead of bacon and eggs, for example.
But when I opened up my nearest Wodehouse (The Code of the Woosters, not The Adventures of Sally, because Sally appears to be shy this morning) to look for a specific example, I remembered that it’s not just his habit of reducing cliches to abbreviations that’s interesting, but the fact that whenever he uses a cliche there is nearly always some sort of twist to your perception of it.
For example, right there in the first paragraphs of The Code of the Woosters, Wodehouse writes:
“He shimmered out, and I sat up in bed with that rather unpleasant feeling you get sometimes that you’re going to die in about five minutes… Indeed just before Jeeves came in, I had been dreaming that some bounder was driving spikes through my head–not just ordinary spikes, as used by Jael the wife of Heber, but red-hot ones.”From The Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse
The idea of a hangover feeling like spikes being driven into your head is hardly original, but that bit about Jael the wife of Heber was completely unexpected. I had to look her up, and that sort of thing is always fun for me.
I also find Wodehouse’s improbable use of words highly entertaining
“Jeeves shimmered out”
Really? How likely is it that a full-grown man could shimmer? And yet I can see how it might appear that way to a person with a monstrous hangover.
That’s what I mean when I say that I read P. G. Wodehouse to remember how fun writing can be.