Monday, March 12, 2018

Wodehouse: a Matter of Style

“Freddie experienced the sort of abysmal soul-sadness which afflicts one of Tolstoy's Russian peasants when, after putting in a heavy day's work strangling his father, beating his wife, and dropping the baby into the city's reservoir, he turns to the cupboards, only to find the vodka bottle empty.” 
 P.G. WodehouseThe Best of Wodehouse: An Anthology

I have loved Wodehouse nearly all my life.  When doing my PhD in London I remember scouring the secondhand bookshops looking for first editions and, when the thesis seemed stuck, I would cheerfully read Wodehouse.  His sunlit world diverted the spirit while his sheer playfulness, and sense of the absurd, was always encouraging.

The quotation above is a masterpiece of the Wodehouse style.  Not a wasted word - but every word made to work to maximum effect.  The shallow exuberance of Freddie, longing for a drink, but sorely out of sorts without one, is weighted against the grimness of the Russian novel 'only to find the vodka bottle empty'.  A superb lighthearted example of bathos worked to great effect!

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