Wednesday, February 25, 2009

P. G. Wodehouse and Dames

P. G. Wodehouse is one of the funniest writers who ever lived. While there are few of his books that I would rate 100 on an individual basis, the body of work rates a clear 100. While Wodehouse may never quite have reached the heights of Catch 22, or Triggerfish Lane (see yesterday's Tim Dorsey entry), he is funnier overall than Joseph Heller or Dorsey ever thought of being (besides coming darn close to those hieights).

As is true of the incomparable Georgette Heyer (novels of Regency England misleadingly labeled as "Regency Romances"), Wodehouse wrote of a world that never was. He wrote novels of the English upper class--as if the Egnlish upper class were ever quite as funny as a P.G. Wodehouse character. You will not find Dickens slum characters in P.G. Wodehouse, or Dickens "social reforming". Not for Wodehouse are the sordid underbelly of English life, or the unhappy ending. Wodehouse male characters have names like "Finknottle", and school nicknames like "Stinker" or "Catsmeat".

As stated, Wodehouse was not interested (in his novels) in the sordid side of life. He gives you iniversal truths about humanity (as did Georgette Heyer) in describing a fantasy world that never quite was (but should have been). Wodehouse's signature character is a "gentleman's gentleman" named Jeeves, who is not so much a real character as a device. Jeeves is the perfect servant of English folklore, with no real life of his own, who solves all of the problems of his employer, Bertie Wooster, and Bertie's friends. Meanwhile, Jeeves quotes Shakespeare and other high brow philosophy, or provides the accurate quote when Bertie has only a vague idea that someone once said something appplicable. Jeeeves is merely a deus ex machina plot device to work out the happy endings. For that reason, and because Jeeves is (deliberately) portrayed as insufferably smug, I prefer the Wodehouse novels without Jeeves. However, there is no doubting that the Jeeves novels are funny--very funny. Bertie Wooster is the Don Quixote "everyman" who has to be bailed out by Jeeves,, as he tilts with windmills (otherwise known as girls with matrimony in mind, and aunts so tough Captain Bligh would have been a pussycat in their hands--not to mention his loopy firends).

Yes, I am finally to the dames of P. G. Wodehouse. Wodehouse wrote about "delicately natured" girls of the upper class who were referred to as "squirt" or "gumboil" or any number of similar terms. Don't be fooled. They are all DAMES, including the aunts sometimes referred to by that title ("Dame" so and so).

Wodehouse dames may be "delicately nurtured", but they all have the willpower, and toughness. of Attila the Hun, or Jabba the Hutt (Darth Vader?). They are all Hell on wheels, and Bertie Wooster, or any Wodehouse male, is merely putty in their hands. The aunts, of course, are these "delicately nurtured" females after they fully grow up--much toughter than Attila the Hun, or rhan any male who ever lived.

Let Bertie Wooster tell you: "Scratch any delicately nurtured female, and you will find a ruthless Napoleon of crime, willing to do anything to get a man to do what she wants, includig blackmail." Women were always blackmailing, or manipultaing, poor Bertie into the most absurd situations. Further, since any woman had a will too strong for Bertie to withstand, if any of these women take it into their mind to marry Bertie Wooster, he is helpless to resist them. Feminism has lowered the status and natural talents of women to the pont that they are no longer as good at this as they used to be. If women really understood what has happened (a male conspiracy?), they would lynch ever feminist they can find. Sure, women are still just as tough and ruthless, but they have lost the ability to use the "velvet glove". Then they wonder why they are not "happy", and why they no longer can get ment to "commit", or otherwise do what they want!!!!

Bertie Wooster (again on dames): "Oh woman, woman. We need to suppress the sex for the good of all of us."

Then there is the philosophy, such as Jeeves quoting Marcus Aurelius (somewhat paraphrased, as all of these quotes in this entry are only appoximate quotes that accurately reflect the gis): "When we are born, our destiny is already determined, and whatever befalls us is only part of that great destiny--part of the Great Web of the universe."

Jeeves stated the above to Bertie Wooster, as Bertie was again in the soup facing actual marriage to one of the terrible (no matter how beautiful) females that crossed his path.

Bertie Wooster: "Marcus Aurelius is an ass!!!"

If you don't understand Bertie's reaction, because of your religious upbringing or something, imagine if Obma had got on TV last night (what he actually said is bad enough) and said: "You need to remember that whatever befalls us is part of the Great Web, and realize that if you have lost your job, or your money, it is only part of your destiny." Even if true (free will?), something lke that might get even Obama stoned--certainly get him called an "ass".

P.S. The above is meant to be farily light stuff. As I have previously told you, proofreading is a laborious chore for me. I do not find it worth the time to proofread the above, and I hope you will forgive the inevitable typos.

No comments: