Thursday, January 17, 2013

Leave it to Psmith

imageThe Humorist, P. G. Wodehouse has written over a hundred books, most of which have remained popular crossing three generations, even today. It is surprising that one of the verbose Tamil critics I read found PGW less appealing, after 'going through' two of his books. Wrong books coupled with a lack of appreciation for excellent English, I should say in my kinder moods, instead of wondering in prose on the misfortune of creators having to cast pearls among pigs. If one wonders where to begin to bask in the sunlit prose of those cataloged hundreds and laugh oneself to tears, Leave it to Psmith is a recommended place. You may then move on to The Code of the Woosters or Right Ho Jeeves, available for download at the gutenberg.

Indignant and harmless, effacing and enlightening, light-hearted and lilting, complex sentences of creative elegance, careening the plot into chaos, only to be unraveled like a sheath of spaghetti en route from plate to the designated mouth, with no loose ends, the story revolves around a happy-go-lucky chap Psmith (p silent), endeavoring to purloin the necklace of Lady Constance Keeble, at the behest of her nephew Freddie, only to redouble his efforts for benefiting his friend Mike and his wife Phyllis, who is the step daughter of the Lady with the necklace. And re-triple his efforts in the guise of Ralston McTodd -- the poet who originally got invited to Blandings Castle by the Lady's brother the Lord Emsworth, but absconded -- having realized that Eve Halliday, a friend of Phyllis and on whom he got love-struck the first sight, is also going to Blandings Castle as a cataloger. The plot is more complex than I have described, but the eliciting prose is of supreme clarity I wish I could write a few sentences that way in English, in my lifetime.

Here are two samples to get you going:
Are you really broke?
As broke as the Ten Commandments.
and the next
Planting his foot firmly on a golf-ball which the Hon. Freddie Threepwood, who had been practicing putting in the corridor before retiring to bed, had left in his casual fashion just where the steps began, he took the entire staircase in one majestic, volplaning sweep. There were eleven starirs in all separating his landing from the landing below, and the only ones he hit were the third and tenth. He came to rest with a squattering thud on the lower landing, and for a moment or two the fever of the chase left him.


  1. gaddeswarup said...

    I too had problems with Wodehouse. Sometimes I found him very funny and and could not stop reading or laughing. But sometimes I could not read him at all and found it all very uninteresting. May be it depends on one's mood and background. Now, the only thing I remember is that nine letter word for a tool used in the pursuit of agriculture. I do not know why but I could never read R.K. Narayan or Rushdie either. May be I am not really in to literature. But I liked Premchand, Sarat, Manto ...

  2. Harisankar H said...

    Beauty is subjective.

  3. Ungrateful Alive said...

    @gaddeswarup --- Of course. Wodehouse himself conceded: "I believe there are two ways of writing novels. One is mine, making a sort of musical comedy without music and ignoring real life altogether; the other is going right deep down into life and not caring a damn."

  4. Desi Babu said...

    For some reason, Wodehouse's books have always been like opera to me. When I love them, I love them a lot -- when I hate them, I hate them with all my guts. I agree with a previous comment that it seems to depend on the mood of the reader.
    But, when I have enjoyed them, they have been worth every penny that I have spent on them.


  5. Ludwig said...

    "Leave it to Psmith" is pitch perfect. Psmith + Blandings is like the "superband" of the Wodehouse world. IMO, the Wooster books come after these two categories.

    Do you remember the DD Hindi serial "Isi Bahane"? Late 80s. Substantively based on "Leave it to Psmith". There's a necklace, Rohini Hattangadi was Constance Keeble, Saeed Jaffrey is Galahad Threepwood, Mazhar Khan, Neena Gupta (?). Super fun.