January 12, 2005

Plum Reviews

I meant to comment on this review in the WaPo by Bob Thompson of Robert McCrum's new biography of P.G. Wodehouse (a copy of which is, I believe, sitting patiently in my closet and waiting to be opened on my birthday).

Everything Thompson says is fair enough, but I have two thoughts, one a general substantive concern and the other a stylistic quibble.

First, I think readers must approach Wodehouse's biography (even as compressed into a newspaper column) very, very carefully. Yes, it's fascinating to read all about his early years of isolation as a child of Empire-building parents, his internment by the Nazis and his subsequent exile in America. Yes, it's interesting to ponder whether and how all of this drove him to develop his own idyllic world in which to hide. But if one were to start thinking about these things while reading Wodehouse's works themselves, one would most probably completely destroy the experience. To properly read Wodehouse, one must have the self-discipline to suspend all critical analysis and confine oneself to enjoying what is on the page. In this respect, I am terribly greatful that I soaked in so much of Wodehouse's work before I ever picked up any books about Wodehouse himself. My innocent enjoyment of Plum's fictional world is now sufficiently armor-plated, as it were, to withstand poking about in his real one.

Second, many reviewers and critics think they are being funny when they try to imitate Wodehouse's particular style of writing in their articles. My message to all such wags (and yes, I'm talking to you, too, Bob Thompson) is: No you're not. Don't do it.

Yips! to Sheila and good luck! As we recently recommended to Kathy the Cake Eater, you won't go far wrong starting with Right Ho, Jeeves. If you ever want to gab about Wodehouse, you know where we live.

Posted by Robert at January 12, 2005 10:00 AM
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