If you a literary buff like me, chances are that you have come across at least one of PG Wodehouse’s writings, novel or otherwise. If you have ever wondered what makes him such a comic genius, you aren’t alone. Humour is serious business, atleast when you are trying to pun your way into literary history.
The eponymous characters, the humdrum of the 1940’s Britian in the background, the vivid language imagery, the (at times) bizarre wit employed in capturing the reader’s attention all go towards fleshing out delightful tales centering around British aristocracy. Eccentric Earl of Ickenham, mischievous Gally Threepwood and absent minded Lord Emsworth are all endearing characters as much for their oddities as for their virtues.
Empress of Blandings, assuredly the most famous pig in twentieth century literature, spawns not piglets but the central plot lines for ten of Wodehouse books. While Pongo Twistleton and Freddie Threepwood each have an uncle with tendencies towards outlandish behaviours a.k.a Lord Ickenham & Galahad Threepwood, Wodehouse’s genius lies in distinguishing their shenanigans. Galahad is a man of the world, albeit a mischief maker while Ickenham cranks up his idiosyncrasies to astronomical levels.
The word imagery employed to shrewdly sketch a character’s background is often magical. The following line is a conversation between a constable and Lord Bostock who has been pushed into a duck pond. Need I say more?
“The one I’m telling you about, sir. I was assaulted by the duck pond.”
The suspicion that the speaker had been drinking grew in Sir Aylmer’s mind. “By the duck pond?”, he echoed, his eyes widening.
“How the devil can you be assaulted by a duck pond?”
Constable Potter realised where the misunderstanding had arisen. “When I said, ‘by the duck pond’, I didn’t mean ‘by the duck pond’, I meant ‘by the duck pond’. That is to say,” proceeded Constable Potter, speaking just in time, ” ‘near’, or ‘adjacent to’, in fact ‘on the edge of.’ I was the victim of an aggravated assault on the edge of the duck pond. Somebody pushed me in.”-Uncle Dynamite by P.G. Wodehouse
Wodehouse’s aphorisms are a strange mix of eclectic humour and hard truths.
“There are moments, Jeeves, when one asks oneself, ‘Do trousers matter?'”
“The mood will pass, sir.”– The Code of Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse
Wodehouse also made his contributions to the dictionary through introduction of words such as gruntled, pottiness and zing.
I first came across Wodehouse books in my teens while still at school and needless to say, they are still my favourite mood boosters when the situation warrants.
Check out my quirky list of top five humour books here.