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Saturday, 18 October 2014

A Tribute To P G Wodehouse On His 133rd Birth Anniversary

It was P G Wodehouse’s 133rd Birth Anniversary on October 15th and in that sense, this is a belated birthday wish.

I have always wondered why PG Wodehouse is the most important writer in English Literature only next to Shakespeare. Is it just the humour, which his writing is so full of? Is it the language which is so easy to understand yet impeccable when it comes to grammar? I am yet to satisfactorily answer myself.

I was first introduced to P G Wodehouse in 1988 by an English lecturer of mine, Mr Sathyanarayana. The thought of introducing me to PGW’s works came to him because in debate competitions, I laced my arguments with a bit of humour to make my point. I am indebted to my lecturer for life for this turning point but after reading a couple of books at college, I totally forgot the works of PGW to concentrate on what the accounting books had to teach me.

It took me another 20 odd years and 2 bouts of treatment for depression to realize the value of reading the Master to take life lightly. How about High Stakes (The Heart of a Goof) in which Bradbury Fisher loses his butler Blizzard in a round of Golf to his rival Gladstone Bott? He is extremely worried how his wife would react to it but she lands from the ship, with a new butler Vosper and pleads with her hubby to somehow dispense with the services of Blizzard.  Who can forget Bertie’s troublesome guest Lord Pershore and how Jeeves got him into prison by wagering him fifty dollars that he would not punch a passing policeman in the eye? Isn’t the story of Corky who wanted to be a portrait painter, becoming  a cartoonist, thanks to the advice of Jeeves,  a lesson for all those who are not able to find where their talent lies? Maybe situations in real life don’t replicate themselves as they do in Wodehouse land.

The bubbly character of Uncle Fred; the obsession of Lord Emsworth with pigs; Galahad Therphwood insistence to write his reminiscences; the domineering Aunt Agatha; the smooth talking small time conman Ukridge and many other characters can be seen in real life in one form or the other.

The way PG Wodehouse relates the situations is simple yet amazing. Take for instance this sentence from, Summer Moonshine `Sir Buckstone had often dredged the dictionary for adjectives to describe the home of his fathers, but “cute” was one which had not occurred to him. Can one character express the hatred that he has for the other better than Bertie does in Aunts aren’t Gentlemen `Aunt Dahlia, not to be confused with my Aunt Agatha who eats broken bottles and is strongly suspected of turning into a werewolf at the time of the full moon’. Well, it can be bettered only by PG Wodehouse, as he did in The Girl in Blue `The Agee woman told us for three quarters of an hour how she came to write the beastly book, when a simple apology was all that required’.

PG Wodehouse is the gold standards of literature and more importantly the standard for any humorous writer. Nobody can match him, not even all the humour writers of all the worlds on one side and PGW on the other side, the Plum will win it hands down. It is because of this strong conviction that, mostly a non-violent being like me, wanted to strangulate an Indian author who had gumption to say `Chetan Bhagat too writes like PGW’. PGW humour is subtle not loud and outlandish. I have hardly read any below the belt jokes in PGW works and definitely there is no sleaze in his writings. The technology has changed drastically since his days yet people find it relevant. I have never been to UK or USA, yet can imagine and appreciate places like Blandings Castle; The Drones Club; Market Blandings; The Senior Conservative Club; Paddington Station, etc. Dog races

PG Wodehouse for me has been the clich├ęd `Philosopher and Guide’. There are many a worries and tensions of my life that I have given a go by thanks to PGW’s books. Being a teetotaler, he is my liquor to kiss stress a good night. I manage to write something which can be called humour and thanks largely to the books of PG Wodehouse.

I will end with this compliment that Bertie pays to Jeeves `If had half Jeeve’s brain, I should have a stab, at being Prime Minister of something’. Well, PGW could have been that the Prime Minister of Britain but after being linked with Nazis, he never returned to his homeland. It is though a matter of pride that P G Wodehouse is still revered in India while there seems to be hardly an enthusiasm about his writing in the UK.
        Is there any hard core fan of P G Wodehouse who has not done this atleast once?

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Banglaore, Karnataka, India