Sunday, August 29, 2010

Wodehouse, for Alan

My friend Alan  blogged a bit about his new workspace and his bookshelf, which is crammed with nearly everything that P.G. Wodehouse ever wrote. My Wodehouse collection isn't nearly as large, but I thought I'd show it off anyway. These books have a place of honor among my office bookshelves.
I came to Wodehouse in a round-about way. I'd heard of Jeeves of course (in fact Jeeves was generic for Butler in my family- as in, "Jeeves, kindly replace the toilet paper roll in the bathroom", or "Jeeves, peel me a grape."), but my first exposure to the literary version was through a Wodehouse-inspired short story in one of the science fiction magazines that I used to get (Isaac Asimov's? Analog?) that featured Lord Emsworth  (or an Emsworth type) switching brains with his beloved pig Empress (the result? not a lot of difference either way). I don't remember the title or the author, but I definitely remember that it was incredibly funny. And that it led me to my library

Where I discovered Uncle Fred in the Springtime, which I think is the funniest book I've ever read. Period.

Jacket blurbs never do books justice, and that's the case with this one as well. The story is wonderfully funny, so funny that you might not notice how incredibly well it was plotted and written. And of course, Uncle Fred led me to the rest of the oeuvre, which I devoured.
Unfortunately, I was the only one who ever checked these books out from our library, so when they finally got to be too shabby for the shelves, the librarian offered them to me (as opposed to tossing them the garbage bin). I jumped at the chance to own the set. I was even more excited when I saw this:

The book is in tough shape- ragged binding, torn cover, no dust jacket- just the glued flaps, retired library written all over inside (and as Alan pointed out- it's an American first edition, no British spelling), but still...

But regardless of the edition, it's the words that count. And this, word for word, is the funniest passage in the English language:

7 comments:

Alan said...

Well, of course, if you're showing off American first editions . . .

And don't get me started on funniest passages or we'll be here all night.

Alan said...

Okay.

"Do you know," said a thoughtful Bean, "I'll bet that if all the girls Freddie Widgeon has loved were placed end to end — not that I suppose one could do it — they would reach half-way down Piccadilly."

"Further than that," said the Egg. "Some of them were pretty tall."

willowcaroline said...

I have loved Wodehouse since I was a teenager, and have enjoyed collecting them in whatever form I can find, even if some are re-releases. Whether it is golf or money making or thwarted love, he just makes me laugh. And now I am passing that love onto the next generation.. my middle son enjoys the humor already at 14.

Kathleen Taylor said...

Alan, when I get back from CA, we'll have a Wodehouseathon

joannamauselina said...

A zillion years ago, a friend recommended HP Lovecraft for good scary books. In my dyslexic way, I went to the library and got PG Wodehouse. I kept waiting for the scary thing to happen, and was sure Aunt Agatha was going to be the scary thing. I just didn't get it! I was supposed to be trembling, and instead I was laughing. My favorite funny thing was Lord Emsworth losing his finger stall in the salad he was ceremoniously mixing at his club. At the end of the meal he realized what had happened, but the finger stall had apparently been eaten.
What is a finger stall? I assumed it was a band aid of some sort.

Alan said...

A finger stall is like a single finger from a glove, plastic now, probably cotton in Lord E's time. It's held in place with a strap that loops around the wrist, and it's meant to cover a cut or injured finger.

The world can be divided into two types of people: those who love Wodehouse and those who've never read him.

Betsy said...

I have close to ninety in paperback that I have been collecting for decades now...was just rereading one of the golf stories last night...
For knitters out there...there are several Wodehouse books on free mp3 sites...worth a listen...but warning...you might get hooked and have another obsession!!!