February 04, 2005

More Plum Blogging

I'm currently working my way throught Robert McCrum's biography of P.G. Wodehouse. All in all, and despite the rave reviews, I'm finding the book a bit of a disappointment. It strikes me that it could stand a bit of reorganization - McCrum bounces back and forth between biographical details and literary analysis a leetle too flittingly for my taste. Also, he has a bad habit of jumbling his chronology so that one often finds oneself reading about the same milestone twice, which is rather confusing.

Nonetheless, the book is very informative. One thing that impresses itself on the reader is that for a recluse, Wodehouse knew an awful lot of people. I believe this misperception of isolation is based on the fact that Wodehouse is really only known for his books these days and not for the enormous amount of work he did in the theatre.

Anyhoo, just take a gander at some of the folks Plum rubbed shoulders with in his youth: W.C. Fields, Ira and George Gershwin, Douglas Fairbanks Sr., John Barrymore, Ed Wynn, Ring Lardner, George S. Kaufman, Dorothy Parker, Florenz Ziegfeld (of Ziegfeld Girl fame), Guy Bolton and Jerome Kern, Arthur Conan Doyle, W.S. Gilbert, Robert Benchley and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Of Fitzgerald, Wodehouse once wrote his stepdaughter Leonora:

I believe those stories.....about his drinking are exaggerated. He seems quite normal and is a very nice chap indeed.....the only thing is, he goes into New York with a scrubby chin, looking perfectly foul.....I suppose he gets a shave when he arrives there, but it doesn't show him at his best in Great Neck...I would like to see more of him.

For some reason, I have never put Wodehouse and Fitzgerald together in my mind before, but there you are.

Oh, one other thing that the book makes clear: The notion that Wodehouse didn't draw on real life and real people for his plots and characters appears to be rubbish. He did it all the time. And in this, I owe some new Battlestar Galactica fans an apology for my crankiness about the way the character of Starbuck has been changed. I find there is precident- the formidable headmistress in the story "Jeeves and the Kid Clementina" is based on a certain Miss Starbuck, who was the head of one of Leonora's boarding schools. Plum was so intimidated by her that when he went to visit Leonora, he would sneak up the drive so as not to be discovered by Miss S.

Posted by Robert at February 4, 2005 10:42 AM

Some years ago, I was in a Fitzgerald phase -- I think that there was no finer literary craftsman in the last century than Fitzgerald -- and I read everything by him that was available in book form, including the throwaway stories he'd send the Saturday Evening Post to keep the bills paid, including also his letters (edited by Matthew Bruccoli, of course). I don't recall Wodehouse being mentioned, either -- although all the other usual suspects of the time show up in his remembrances -- H.L. Mencken, Ring Lardner, Hemingway, Joyce, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, John Dos Passos, etc. ad infinitum.

Of course, my memory may also be playing tricks on me.

I suspect a conspiracy. The entire Fitzgerald-Wodehouse connection was sent down the memory hole by our reptilian overlords for their own inscrutable, nefarious ends.

Ah, the nurse is here with my pill. More later.

Posted by: The Colossus at February 4, 2005 12:00 PM
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