Sunday, March 23, 2008

P.G. Wodehouse - the comical genius of 20th Century

Sir P.G. Wodehouse - the literary comic genius - in 1904 (aged 23)

The other day I was feeling a little morose at how static life is and in general about the apparent futility of life (a topic thoroughly dissected in infinite detail by me and umpteen philosophers, yet completely unanswered). I just happened to pick up the book "Uncle Fred in the Springtime - A Blandings Story" and started perusing through it.

No sooner had I started reading, I found myself chuckling to my heart's delight, completely forgetting the woes/boredom of life. The mood instantly lightened by the amusing and highly entertaining antics of these completely lunatic caricatures. I paused a second to offer my silent salute to the late Sir Pelham Greenville Woodhouse, whose fertile imaginations and idiotic ruminations produced such wondrous literary comics, that even after a century, still remain one of the most ticklish sources of upper society mirth.

There are just so many of his novels to choose from - each an absolutely rib-tickling account of some idiotic, downright silly episode in the lives of extremely unrealistic city-slickers turned village-idiots! There are dozens of Jeeves adventures and tens of Blandings Castle stories and many more assorted loony tales.

Yes, his plots are extremely silly, requiring a degree of naivety from the lead characters, that is completely unrealistic in a matter-of-fact world such as this. Add to this the regurgitation of the formulaic narrative and we get a series that is naive, idealistic and repetitive. Yet, even though Wodehouse can be accused of repeating several plot elements throughout his novels, his deft mastery of the English word and prose lets him get away with it! Each of his novels seem so refreshingly new (even though a close scrutiny would prove the similarities) and do not fail to evoke peals of laughter from avid readers.

I remember my initial reluctance at picking up a Wodehouse - I was very much a cynic at the time (and I still am) and I used to find the naivety & exuberance of the novels extremely irritating. Over time, as I read more, I loosened up and began enjoying (even relishing) Wodehouse novels. I realized that though the novels are naive, it is exactly the romanticized notion of love, life and work that makes Wodehouse's crazy world an Utopian getaway from a cynical, dystopian reality. It offers for its readers, who are willing to overlook its pitfalls, a tool of rejuvenation for the tired mind, previously brainwashed into cynicism by the chores and mundaneness of everyday life. It at least makes me realize the umpteen good things in life I take for granted!

Of course, the "Wodehouse effect" requires certain pre-requisites:

· A reasonably strong command over the English language (this does not mean that you have to be a linguistic maestro to relish his novels)

· An ability to follow/comprehend large sentences & paragraphs (and believe me, his novels are full of insanely long descriptions - each extremely funny)

· Finally, a certain indulgence from you of becoming naive, at least temporarily.

These pre-requisites may seem a little demanding, but believe me, the catch is worth the bait! The resulting mirth and enjoyment derived from his works will cast a spell of exuberance & optimism on you, albeit, as long as the novel lasts at least!

The reason why I write this post is to enlighten avid bookworms and readers, who are as yet uniformed of Wodehouse and his ingenious work, about both the quantum and the quality of his work, which is the stuff of legends among novelists/authors. I hope that after reading this post, you pick up a Wodehouse and read it the way I (and millions of other Wodehouse followers) read - with absolutely no care in this world!

Here's to Wodehouse - he has given us a reason to laugh and celebrate the idiosyncrasies of human nature!


prashant said...

wat a co-incidence......i too posted one 2dy...mebbe at the same time also the ligament tear has worked!!!!even the tear couldnt stop u from using the heavy words .......bck to the post......didnt know bout this comic genius until today.......i would still like to know more bout this guy who facinated u to write this amazing post!!seems i need to need a lotsa work to satisfy the prerequisites.....!!!gud work buddy.....keep introducing new characters......

lappet! said...

PG is awesome dude! His humour is so subtle you never know when it hits you, and when it does you are in splits!

W.T.F. Ittabari said...

hi ravi.. i like your blog.

plum rocks.

a big reason why my pseudonym translated in english would mean 'brick house'.