Thursday, January 13, 2011

Something Fresh by P.G. Wodehouse


3. Something Fresh (also known as Something New)
by P.G. Wodehouse
fiction, 1915
Kindle book - 2
finished, 1/13/11



Though he is my favorite writer of all time, I've not written any book reports on Mr. Wodehouse's work since beginning this blog. I did mention him in a little author meme and noted some of his words here, as well as a few quotes du jour. I read one book in 2007 and three books in 2008 but this was before I began writing about each book I read. In the years previous to 2006, I listened to every P.G. Wodehouse book I could find which was narrated by the late David Case, who recorded as Frederick Davidson. I absolutely loved the way he told the stories. I also listened to a few that Alexander Spencer read. Though he is very good, and a favorite with some Wodehouse fans, Davidson will always be my personal favorite voice.

In Something Fresh, the first of the Blandings books - or as Wodehouse himself said, 'The Blandings Castle Saga' - we begin with a young man, Ashe Marson doing his morning exercises outside his apartment in London, and a young woman, Joan Valentine who laughs at him. When she comes to apologize they find out that not only are they both Americans by birth but that they also work for the same company. He writes the Gridley Quayle adventure detective stories and she writes for Home Gossip. Neither of them is happy in their jobs.

And then we meet one of the best characters in literature, Lord Emsworth, and his son, Freddie Threepwood.
Like many fathers in his rank of life, the Earl of Emsworth had suffered much through that problem which, with the exception of Lloyd-George, is practically the only fly in the British aristocratic amber - the problem of what to do with the younger sons.
It is useless to try to gloss over the fact - in the aristocratic families of Great Britain the younger son is not required.
But this fact is not the only reason that Freddie causes his father fits.
He had been expelled from Eton for breaking out at night and roaming the streets of Windsor in a false mustache. He had been sent down from Oxford for pouring ink from a second-story window on the junior dean of his college. He had spent two years at an expensive London crammer's and failed to pass into the army. He had also accumulated an almost record series of racing debts, besides as shady a gang of friends - for the most part vaguely connected with the turf [racecourse] - as any young man of his age ever contrived to collect.
Because of these offenses, his father has cut his allowance and forced him to live back home at Blandings Castle. Of course such a boulevardier as Freddie absolutely despises this sort of life, and so is thrilled when he and his father go up to the metropolis, London on business for a couple of days. Freddie immediately gets into trouble, while Lord Emsworth just longs to be back in the country.
London was always a trial to the Earl of Emsworth. His heart was in the country and the city held no fascinations for him.
Lord Emsworth was
as completely happy as only a fluffy-minded old man with excellent health and a large income can be. Other people worried about all sorts of things - strikes, wars, suffragettes, the diminishing birth rate, the growing materialism of the age, a score of similar subjects.
Worrying, indeed, seemed to be the twentieth-century specialty. Lord Emsworth never worried. Nature had equipped him with a mind so admirably constructed for withstanding the disagreeableness of life that if an unpleasant thought entered it, it passed out again a moment later. Except for a few of life's fundamental facts, such as that his check book was in the right-hand top drawer of his desk; that the Honorable Freddie Threepwood was a young idiot who required perpetual restraint; and that when in doubt about anything he had merely to apply to his secretary, Rupert Baxter - except for these basic things, he never remembered anything for more than a few minutes.
Freddie is newly engaged to Aline Peters, the daughter of a rich American who collects scarabs. Miss Peters is loved by George Emerson. Aline is an old friend of Joan Valentine (see above). This same Joan used to appear on the stage, and young silly Freddie fell in love with her from the audience seats. He wrote her love letters and poetry. This wouldn't be a problem except for the fact that he may have proposed marriage in one of the epistles, which could result in a breach-of-promise lawsuit.

Are you confused yet? Well, this is so very typical of a P.G. Wodehouse novel. Amazingly, as one reads along, it never seems that confusing. We blithely follow the characters on their hilarious adventures. The books are not farce or parody, neither of which I enjoy. They are merely stories in a parallel universe in which death and war and sadness simply do not exist. Evelyn Waugh wrote:
Mr. Wodehouse's idyllic world can never stale. He will continue to release future generations from captivity that may be more irksome than our own. He has made a world for us to live in and delight in.
There is no literary place I would rather be. Wodehouse writes in this book,
After all, what could be pleasanter than a little literature in the small hours?
And I would only add, written by Pelham Grenville Wodehouse. It is the purest form of escape ever written, but it is combined with excellent, excellent writing. The man was, I think, a genius.

Even as I write this book report, I cannot contain a laugh. Yes, not just a smile, but a real laugh as I think back on the book. It is entirely possible that I love this one most of all. The characters are sublime, especially the butler, Beach, and the secretary, The Efficient Baxter.

As well as sometimes outlandish humor, there are quiet little bits as well.
In English trains the tipping classes travel first; valets, lady's maids, footmen, nurses, and head stillroom maids, second; and housemaids, grooms, and minor and inferior stillroom maids, third. But for these social distinctions, the whole fabric of society would collapse and anarchy stalk naked through the land - as in the United States.
I shall end this with another great quote from Waugh:
The gardens of Blandings Castle are that original garden from which we are all exiled. All those who know them long to return.

Through the words of Pelham Grenville Wodehouse, we can all go back for renewal and courage to face the 'real' world.

19 comments:

  1. PGW is great fun isn't he... did you enjoy Jeeves and Wooster on TV?
    The Blandings books and the J&W's are my favourites..he wrote nice amusing cheerful books didn't he ..I'm smiling as I type this just thinking about them... I do find if I read too many in a row it has an effect on speech ..I keep wanting to say 'Good egg' 'Old bean' and 'Topping' it gets me some very odd looks if I don't take care :0)

    btw Younger d is slowly working her waY through your recipes (mainly focusing on Chocolate)you are her online cookery book ..She informs me "Nan is really kind and puts her recipes on line so that little girls can use them" she also wanted me to say "a big thank you" so I do !!!!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh, this sounds utterly delightful!! It is not so often that I come across a fellow Wodehouse lover. One of my favourites is "Laughing Gas". Have you read it?

    ReplyDelete
  3. What a wonderful review Nan! I do hereby confess to never having read PG....want to, meant to, have had one or two in a book stack that I never quite got to...but you have me hooked and he will be the next book I get from the library. Do you recommend Something Fresh as a very first?
    blessings,
    Niki
    PS back from Hawaii...hope to post soon :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Okay, you've convinced me to read this. It sounds divine. I laughed several times while reading your quotes from the book. I love this sort of thing.

    Confession: I've tried and tried to get into Wodehouse's Bertie Wooster stores and for whatever reason, I've always failed to follow through. Something else I'll have to rectify, judging by your enthusiam for Wodehouse!

    ReplyDelete
  5. He's so eminently quotable, isn't he? This is one I've never read, and I hadn't think of looking him up in the Kindle store. A whole new set of treats to anticipate!

    ReplyDelete
  6. The first book I downloaded on my Kindle was a PG Wodehouse Jeeves collection. I love reading him too, but have never been able to articulate why as well as you do!

    ReplyDelete
  7. I'm never so happy or well-amused as when reading Wodehouse. Bedtime book at the mo is the omnibus edition of all the Jeeves short stories. It seemed the natural follow-up to my omnibus edition of the Mapp & Lucia novels!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Your enthusiasm is contagious, Nan! I WILL read Wodehouse when the tbr dare is over. This sounds like the perfect place to start.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Interesting post. i didn't know this writer of charming mood
    Wayne from http://webocle.blogspot.com/
    i'll list your blog to mine

    ReplyDelete
  10. Frederick Davidson a.k.a. David Case is a huge reason why The Inimitable Jeeves ended up in my top ten books of last year. Hilarious. I really need to read/listen to more Wodehouse.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I did, Val, and in fact that is how I first heard of Wodehouse! And I thank those dear girls!

    Librarian, I haven't read it, but hope to.

    Niki, welcome home! Sure, you could start with this one. Or anyone.

    Yvette, I adore the Jeeves and Wooster books. And I don't think Bertie is nearly as dumb as people think he is. I have some great quotes in my quote books which feature his wisdom'

    Geranium Cat, yes a lot are on the Kindle! I hope this will lead more people to read the great man's work.

    Sallie, thanks but I'm not that articulate! Passionate about his writing, yes!

    Pamela, ah yes! or February or July or November. :<)

    Margaret, I have a collection called The World of Jeeves. Oh, how I love those tales!

    JoAnn, I am so glad!

    Wayne, thanks.

    Oh, Christy, I am thrilled you like him, too!

    ReplyDelete
  12. I love Wodehouse books too. First discovered them when I was a junior secretary and nearly got the sack for reading them under cover of my desk - I think the laughing out loud gave me away!

    ReplyDelete
  13. I am a true Wodehouse fan - he was a great writer.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Pam, what a great, great story!!

    Martin, I so agree.

    ReplyDelete
  15. You've convinced me! I'll give Wodehouse another try. I hate to admit it but I couldn't get into Jeeves.... But I know Wodehouse is one of the great writers. and I generally like the books you recommend so I've ordered this at my library.

    Have you tried Henrietta's War? I think you'd love it.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Kathie, ah Jeeves. He is a genius. It is often thought by Bertie that it must be because of all the fish he eats. :<) I think the two of them go together like bread and butter, like milk and cookies.
    Yes, I did read H's W, and loved it!
    http://lettersfromahillfarm.blogspot.com/2009/10/henriettas-war-by-joyce-dennys.html

    ReplyDelete
  17. I am also a fan, of course, but didn't know about this book. I am going to get it ASAP. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete

Now that I am a grandmother, it seems that I am often late in replying to your most-appreciated comments. But I read them as soon as they come in, and I will write as soon as I can. Please do come back and check. I love these blogging conversations.
Also, you may comment on any post, no matter how old, and I will see it.