Thursday, July 26, 2012

Love Among the Chickens by P.G. Wodehouse

Into every life some frivolity must come, or else we would slit our wrists at the sheer horror of it all. When I find myself in need of frivolity, I've turned to various writers, but none have proved as reliably frivolous as Wodehouse. One particularly excellent feature of Wodehouse's work is the sheer depth of its sublime triviality: I've read my way through his two main series -- those featuring, on the one hand, that young nincompoop Bertie Wooster and his all-wise gentleman's gentleman Jeeves, and, on the other, those centered around Blandings Castle and its human and porcine inhabitants -- and there are still a dozen or two standalone humorous novels, or books in shorter series, that I still haven't got to. (In that context, I could also mention Psmith, that unflappable young gentleman, and the equally unflappable but much less young Uncle Fred.)

One of those minor series centers on Stanley Featherstonehaugh Ukridge, one of those men whose self-confidence is always much higher than warranted by circumstances or than similar confidence is extended to him by any other human being. Ukridge, who mostly appears in short stories, is a font of get-rich schemes and new angles to make his life smoother and richer, every one of which scheme or angle leaves him at least as bad off as before -- but never, ever, daunted in the slightest.

The one novel about Ukridge is Love Among The Chickens, in which that ever-cheerful character decides that starting a business farming chickens on the Dorset coast is the royal road to riches -- why, you can get the chickens and feed on account, and then sell back the eggs (dozens every day!) to your creditors and local conveyors of comestibles, quickly building a quick and easy stream of ever-increasing income without any outlay or hard work! -- and drags his boyhood friend Jeremy Garnet into the scheme. Of course it doesn't work as Ukridge expects, since nothing ever could, and of course there's a love plot for Jeremy, plus angry creditors, rural policemen, and wise but unheeded blue-collar types, since this is a Wodehouse novel.

The whole isn't quite as sublime as Wodehouse at his prime -- this is a very early novel, from 1906, and he was still working out the details that worked best for him -- but it is sublime, and silly, and frothy, and deeply, deeply frivolous in the very best way. I recommend it, and three or four dozen other Wodehouse books (choose one to taste), for whenever the press of non-frivolous life becomes too strong.

1 comment:

mobb said...

i should try reading his books=)

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