Tuesday, January 12, 2010

There's a reason why they call him "The Master."

The world, it is said, is divided into two types of people: those who love P.G. Wodehouse and those who've never read him.

Doing some comfort re-reading of The Code of the Woosters, I'm in awe again of Wodehouse's overwhelming genius, as a wordsmith, as a plot architect, as a creator of unforgettable characters.

Wodehouse writes the Jeeves and Wooster stories in the person of Bertie Wooster, who has an unwavering faith in his intellect and sophistication, and is utterly convinced that he is a good deal smarter than most of the other characters in the novels he narrates. (His valet, Jeeves, excepted, mostly.) Furthermore, as the channel for Wodehouse's style, his first-person voice is fluid, hilarious, and studded with an average of three metaphors of dazzling originality per page of text. And yet, through the medium of his own self-deluded words, we are still left with the indelible impression that Bertie is a complete chump.

How does Wodehouse do this? Through passages like this, where Bertie discusses his friend, newt-fancier Gussie Fink-Nottle, with Gussie's fiancee, the dreaded Madeline Bassett.
"Have you not sometimes felt in the past, Bertie, that, if Augustus had a fault, it was a tendency to be a little timid?"

I saw what she meant.

"Oh, ah, yes, of course, definitely." I remembered something Jeeves had once called Gussie. "A sensitive plant, what?"

"Exactly. You know your Shelley, Bertie."

"Oh, am I?"


  1. I think Uncle Fred in the Springtime is the funniest book ever written. I read it about once a year, and it makes me laugh out loud every time.

  2. Wodehouse has gotten me through many a dark time.. and now I am passing on my love to my middle son, age 13. It is never too early to find a good friend in literature. I also name all our chickens after the women in Wodehouse books.

  3. My dog was a rescue dog, and we had a choice of two available puppies, male and female. If we'd taken the male, I wanted to call it "Bertie," after Bertram Wilberforce Wooster. But my wife thought there were too many males in the household, and so we adopted Leila. The name was chosen by my eldest son -- he had a classmate with that name in nursery school.

    Nobody's called Wilberforce these days. Or Archibald. Or Marmaduke. A great loss.