January 12, 2005


I hang my head in shame. Because I have not read any PG Wodehouse. I know I have a bunch of Wodehouse freaks who read this blog, so please enlighten me.

Or - never mind. You don't have to "enlighten me". This review of the latest biography of Wodehouse in the Washington Post was enough. (Wonderful article. I highly recommend it.) Now I know I have to read the guy's books.

The opening paragraph of the review:

If you're trying to evoke the alternative universe that is the prose of P.G. Wodehouse, there is perhaps no better place to start than the passage in which Bertie Wooster's schoolmate, the former teetotaler Gussie Fink-Nottle, awards prizes to the eager scholars at Market Snodsbury Grammar School. It is, thinks Wodehouse biographer Robert McCrum, "one of the funniest 30 pages ever written."

And that's enough for me. The funniest 30 pages ever written? I need. To. Read. Them.

Here's another very funny observation in that there review:

Yet there's another essential aspect of Wodehouse that may help explain his continuing appeal. The man did his best to pretend that the 20th century never happened.

heh heh heh heh

I'm all about pretending that shit isn't happening.

So please. Shame me if you must, excoriate me, lambast me ... but gimme a reading list in the comments.

Tell me where to start.

Posted by sheila

At the risk of offending the freaks *ahem*.. I've attempted to get P G Wodehouse's alternative universe in the past.. and I just don't see the point. Now I have an already far too long a list to try and get in several lifetimes, never mind just one, and I've yet to hear a convincing argument for re-instating P G into that schedule.

Posted by: peteb at January 12, 2005 10:08 AM

Fair enough, peteb.

But I do want to hear from the unabashed fans, and have them give me reading lists.

Posted by: red at January 12, 2005 10:11 AM

Fair enough, Sheila.

Posted by: peteb at January 12, 2005 10:16 AM

There are several focal points in the Wodehouse universe. I commend to your attention any/all of the Jeeves collections (any Wodehouse book with Jeeves in the title) and the Mulliner stories.

I don't know if there is a particular order for reading. I read 'em as I found 'em and I don't think that I am worse for the experience.

Posted by: homebru at January 12, 2005 10:32 AM

I'm just starting to get into Wodehouse; I find him hilarious but then I lack dry British humor. Start with 'Code of the Woosters.'

Posted by: Dan at January 12, 2005 10:39 AM

I think I've read at least half, maybe as much as three quarters of the large Wodehouse output. There are two main series that form the heart of his work, the Jeeves & Wooster books, and the Blandings castle books. I suppose the classic way to read him would be to read the early Jeeves & Wooster (Very Good, Jeeves & The Code of the Woosters, &c.) and then the original Blandings books (Something Fresh, Heavy Weather, and so on).

He has other series, too - like the tales of Mr Mulliner, or the travails of Psmith, socialist. I think the Psmith series are actually my favorite.

Posted by: Anne at January 12, 2005 10:57 AM



I mean... WHAT?

Ah, better now.

Actually, any collection will do you well. Most of his episodic stories (e.g. Jeeves) can be read in any order. And what really impresses me is that they are very consistent in quality. If you find that you don't initially like Wodehouse then you probably won't ever like him.

Pedantic aside: His name is pronounced Woodhouse. It doesn't usually bother me when I hear it mispronounced. But on a recent television show a character who should know better mispronounced it and it bugged the hell out of me.

Posted by: Scott Janssens at January 12, 2005 01:21 PM

I just realized that so shocked was I at the first paragraph of the post that I wrote the previous comment before actually reading the post.

I think the best decription of Wodehouse's universe is that it's "an England that never quite was."

Posted by: Scott Janssens at January 12, 2005 01:24 PM


HAHAHAHA You were so discombobbled by my admission that you were forced to begin to shriek into the comments section.

It's okay. I expected that.

I will go to the bookstore in the next couple of days and pick up a copy.

I actually have a feeling I'm going to dig it. Completely.

Posted by: red at January 12, 2005 01:35 PM

I'd suggest the Penguin omnibus editions Life with Jeeves (The Inimitable Jeeves, Very Good, Jeeves! and Right Ho, Jeeves) and Life at Blandings (Something Fresh, Summer Lightning, Heavy Weather) as a convenient and inexpensive way to start. His earliest works have been falling into the public domain, so Project Gutenberg now has a good deal of Wodehouse for those who don't mind reading a plain text file.

Posted by: Sporkadelic at January 12, 2005 02:39 PM

I would second Sporkadelic's suggestion and start with Life at Blandings. They're the first three stories set at Blandings and provide a great introduction to the Wodehouse world.

Wodehouse is definitely one of those love 'em or leave 'em type authors. I try to explain him by saying he creates his own ridiculous rules for his characters. The characters then follow those rules even though they make no sense for anybody else.

Hot Water and Uncle Fred in the Springtime are both hilarious books not involving his well known characters.


Posted by: Tim at January 12, 2005 05:59 PM

Thanks, everyone - these are all great. I appreciate the guidance.

Posted by: red at January 12, 2005 06:00 PM

If you can find a Mulliner story entitled "The Unpleasantness at Bludleigh Court" you will see Wodehouse not only at his best in prose but light verse as well.

Posted by: Steve Wilson at January 12, 2005 06:28 PM