Monday, April 26, 2010

Russians Led Me to My PG Wodehouse

The doctor in my mind wrote a prescription for me and the prescription was: Insert More Pelham Grenville into your life, daily, for several weeks.

I've been feeling droopy of late, lacking the ability to laugh at self, or to feel particularly chirpy about anything, let alone make a "Five Year Plan". This, coupled with a decided lack of sleep, and waking in the night a regular occurrence, finds me, these days, with my knuckles dragging on the ground. As it's the season when most things are coming alive, birdies are tweeting and gardens are growing, my state was irksome, to say the least.

The prescription was to re-read the very first P.G. Wodehouse book I ever read, preferably in the same paperback edition, for maximum impact. I knew that this book had made me laugh out loud, and laugh more than I had ever laughed reading any book ever. It was the one that confirmed me as a life long P.G. Wodehouse fan, particularly his Jeeves and Bertie series.

Problem was I had no idea which book it was. I'd borrowed the book from a friend at the time of reading. I knew it had a picture of someone in a boat, and a circular garden pavilion, and there was something about a hostile swan. But couldn't for the life of me remember the name of the collection. And there are quite a few novels and short story collections.

Thank you internet! Yesterday an online search for clues brought me to this wonderful compendium of Wodehouse, from the Russian Wodehouse Society. Yes, from the Russians! The really helpful thing was their inclusion of photos of the actual book covers used over many years of publication. I found my book! It was right there: the boat, the pavilion, the swan. I think the swan, anyway, the book cover is a bit tiny.

It was with me the work of a minute (or several minutes) to locate a used copy of the book online, for practically nothing. And soon my prescription will be winging its way to me. Thank you, oh nameless and meticulous Russians for your love and dedication to one of the wonders of English literature: P.G. Wodehouse, and for leading me back to a delightful pleasure from my past.

It's all the more charming that Russians have put this website together as Wodehouse liked to rib the Russian temperament regularly in his books. For example, this little excerpt from Wodehouse's Monkey Business:

I have a tender heart (said Mr Mulliner), and I dislike to dwell on the spectacle of a human being groaning under the iron heel of Fate. Such morbid gloating, I consider, is better left to the Russians.

I look forward to a lot less morbid gloating in my future.


Michael MacMahon said...

Thank you, Sarah. My sentiments about PGW are the same as yours. I note the posting was in April; I hope that the medicine worked!

PS how did I find your blog? Because I wanted to use the phrase "it was with me the work of a minute" in an e-mail and I wasn't sure if my recall was accurate, so I Googled the phrase. Your blog was one of only three hits, of which the other two were irrelevant.

Actually I was probably being unnecessarily careful; the Blessed Stephen Fry says that it's OK to get quotations slightly wrong, as that proves you are going from memory rather than having looked it up in a dictionary of quotations or online.

Sarah said...

Michael, how wonderful that the phrase worked for you and brought you here. Thank you very much for your comment, it put a smile on my face.

Yes, the medicine seems to be working. Thanks also for the Stephen Fry comment, he's another hero of mine.

I do think I need to dip into another PG Wodehouse soon, though, now that autumn's here.

Michael MacMahon said...

Thanks for this, Sarah.

Do you listen to "The Write Stuff" on Radio 4? You must catch yesterday's edition on iPlayer; the spoofs at the end of the show were on this occasion in the style of Wodehouse; some of the phrases the panellists used would even have pleased the master himself.

Rona Maynard said...

I think you've just persuaded me to experience P.G. Wodehouse for the first time. I'm in luck: my husband has a complete collection of Penguin paperbacks.