Thursday, March 31, 2022

Lord Emsworth and Others by P.G. Wodehouse

P.G. Wodehouse is one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century. He wrote books no one else could, some of which are among the most lovely, entertaining novels of all time. He also did that pretty consistently for about seventy years, which is a separate point but equally impressive.

I don't know if anyone actually disputes that - well, I'm writing this on the Internet, so I'm pretty sure someone will dispute anything; I should specify I mean reasonable, informed people - but the kind of story Wodehouse wrote has always been considered less important, less literary, less worthy of attention. Humor is more difficult than seriousness, and can be equally as sublime. And Wodehouse was absolutely the master in that field: who could you stand up against him?

Wodehouse wrote close to a hundred books; I haven't managed to read them all, but I do try to get to another one of them - sometimes new, sometimes not - a few times a year, which means I may someday actually get to the end. But his work is so vast, and so inexhaustible, that doesn't actually matter.

This time around, I picked up Lord Emsworth and Others, a 1937 collection of short fiction that was originally published in the US as Crime Wave at Blandings, after the first and longest story. (That happens very often, and I can't say if it's because Americans are actually stupider and more distracted than other nations, or just that our marketing gurus assume we are.)

I don't have a lot to say about the individual stories - there's a few "Oldest Member" pieces, which actually get me interested in stories about golf, several "Mr. Mulliner" pieces, and some centered on the denizens of the Drones Club. All are funny, full of prime-period Wodehouse wordplay and sparkling language, and all are exceptionally well-constructed stories on top of that. And the lead story...well, I was compelled to tweet about it while reading:

So this is a great book by a great writer, and reading it will make your day that much brighter and happier. I can think of no higher praise for a book. And there's at least a dozen equally-strong books by Wodehouse, which brings me back to the point I made to open this post.

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