Wonderful Wodehouse

One of the few advantages of being stuck in Lagos traffic for over an hour each working day is I get to read an awful lot, and thanks to my newly procured Kindle, I have a never-ending supply of books, especially those which I always meant to get ’round to reading.

A few weeks ago I downloaded a P.G. Wodehouse collection.  I’d read two of his novels before, and had been mightily impressed.  Still, nothing caused me to laugh out loud so suddenly and for so long as this passage from one of the Jeeves and Wooster stories:

“I suppose everyone has had that ghastly feeling at one time or another of being urged by some overwhelming force to do some absolutely blithering act. You get it every now and then when you’re in a crowded theatre and something seems to be egging you on to shout ‘Fire!’ and see what happens. Or you’re talking to someone and all at once you feel ‘Now suppose I suddenly biffed this bird in the eye!'”

That last line still has me laughing as I read it now.

Besides which, how true!  Where on earth does this urge come from?  Is it the same urge, which I for years thought was unique to me, which you get when you look over a cliff or off the stern of a ship and you think “Now what would happen if I jumped off here…” when it is damned obvious what would happen but still you come away thinking you did pretty well to restrain yourself.  Is there a name for this?  Or an explanation?

No such explanation is required for why P.G. Wodehouse makes me laugh.


6 thoughts on “Wonderful Wodehouse

  1. Learned academic quoted as saying that Wodehouse can pack more original similes into a single page than most of the rest of us will achieve in a lifetime (or something to that effect)

    As in:
    “Honoria, you see, is one of those robust, dynamic girls with the muscles of a welterweight and a laugh like a squadron of cavalry charging over a tin bridge”

    And regarding the learning of French….
    “Into the face of the young man who sat on the terrace of the Hotel Magnifique at Cannes there had crept a look of furtive shame, the shifty, hangdog look which announces that an Englishman is about to talk French.”

  2. “Is there a name for this? Or an explanation?”

    Maybe not a name, but there’s an excellent explanation of it in “Breath”, by Aussie novelist Tim Winton. I wish I could quote it, but I don’t have the copy anymore, it was a loaner from the libary.

    He describes vertigo not as a fear of falling, but as a hunger for it; the body’s instinct to fling itself off into breathless space and dash itself to destruction at the bottom.

    It’s why they tell you not to look down.

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