Memories of pigs, four-eyed secretaries, fat farms and dog races

“Nostalgia’s just the longing for a time you know you can survive.”
– from The Well-Appointed Room by Richard Greenberg

It’s weird to start a post on Wodehouse on that sentimental note. But Greenberg succinctly sums up what I suspect is the most important reason I continue to read PGW. I owe my introduction to PGW to a friend of my dad’s. This friend is apparently a great fan, and my father remembered the author and got me The Head of Kays . I must have been oh, 10 or 11 then. I was quite livid with my father for buying me a book which featured neither Tin Tin nor Asterix, and worse, was apparently all about boys and cricket. I refused to read the book for I don’t know how long. In those days, I actually used to read everything I bought, or could lay my hands on. Frequently, I actually ran out of books to read.[1] On one such occassion, I finally gave up my pride and truly gave Kennedy and Fenn a chance.

Kays isn’t particulary funny. But having changed schools often myself, I completely related to Kennedy who finds himself in a new house. The book that made me a life-long fan was Leave it to Psmith , another gift from my dad. A serendipitous gift because it features Blandings Castle AND Psmith… I’ve never cared much for Jeeves (whom I consider to be the meanest character PGW ever created). Had I started with one of the Jeeves books, I doubt I’d have carried on with Wodehouse.

I’m not even going to attempt going over Wodehouse’s style. Entire forests must’ve been mown down for the topic. Instead am just going to indulge in nostalgia, and say why Wodehouse is special to me…

– I remember reading somewhere that people who read do so in order to feel like they belong – borrowing Wodehouse from the Madras British Council library made me feel like I was part of a club – PGW books from the BC always had a lot of notes on the margins, lines underlined, references to other books where the same characters were featured, lines that some previous reader had felt were “the best!”. Now, almost all of my friends read. But growing up, I didn’t really have anyone I could discuss books with (my dad’s participation was limited to footing the bill for my expensive hobby.) The doodles and underlines and notes on PGW books were the closest thing I had to a conversation…

– The suspicion with which my mom’s always regarded PGW. Apparently, the sight of her one and only spending holidays cooped up with a book, and periodically letting out maniacal howls of laughter while clutching tummy and rolling on the floor wasn’t my mom’s idea of “normal” behaviour. I’d try to explain the joke to her, but you know how PGW is. My mom would only get even more convinced that her child was apparently daft as well as crazy – why else would anyone laugh at the idea of a fat pig being stolen, or a secretary in lemon pajamas? When the Stephen Fry / Hugh Laurie Jeeves shows were broadcast on televsion, I believe I made my mom watch them. She’s never taken to PGW for some reason, and my forcing it down her throat didn’t help. Something changed in my mom’s opinion of me after she saw my tear streaked face as I read that last chapter in Leave it to Psmith – where Freddy Threepwood puts his leg through a rotting floor. I’ve done and read lots of things things that perplexed and continue to disturb my mom since then, but I’d like to think that that was the first.

In a fit of nostaligia, I watched the Fry-Laurie Jeeves series last week. It’s just not the same. Laurie and Fry are still great (although Laurie wears too much make-up *shudder*), but the aunts are no longer menacing. In my memory, I’d also confused the actor who plays Steggles as being Gussie Fink-Nottle. Aunt Agatha looks just like Aunt Dahlia and Bingo Little & Tuppy Glossop feel more like a couple of extras rather than being the jolly chaps they’re in the books.

I no longer howl with laughter when reading Wodehouse. But I still read him whenever I want to escape to a world where the worst thing that can happen is that an aunt might want you to steal a cow-creamer, and the most intelligence you need to possess is to not give your real name to the judge post boat-race night.

[1] Those were golden days, when one didn’t carry all the world’s guilt at not reading one or another book from a backlog longer than I care to make metaphorical jokes about. My mom told me that if I wish for many things in life, I’d be sent back at the end of this one so I could live out all my wishes. That was meant as a warning against wishing for too much, I think. Personally am not sure any number of lifetimes will get me through my reading back log.

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1 comment so far

  1. BBG on

    Comrade Doz,
    It has been some journey reading through your blog. I truly enjoyed some of the book/movie blogs.What makes your blogs fun is that you seem to write like you’re writing whatever you want to write about, without thinking about an audience – not that you aren’t thinking about readers/comments etc.
    (BTW, while I have been going through the blogs that are linked on your Stochastica blog-page,
    I ended up here. And it took me such a long long time to figure out how Doz and
    Dreaming of Zhihuatenejo are connected. Talk about a tube-light!)
    Then to top it all, here I land up right in a blog about my best friend, comrade Psmith. Now, I’ve got to take back that comment I made elswehere about you choosing comrade Congo ( or was it Bongo?) over comrade Psmith as your favorite PGWian character. That said, when I spoke to Comrade Psmith yesterday he told me that you might be able to help answer the question that has been nagging me for some time.
    Can you please tell me what our man Comrade Ralston McTodd meant when he wrote ‘the sibilant silence that shimmered as we sat’.
    May be explain that with a diagram, comrade Doz?Please!

    -BBG


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