October 24, 2002

Pigs Have Wings, and Summer Lightning, by P.G. Wodehouse

In high school, years and years ago, a friend of mine read Wodehouse and, on her recommendation, I read a couple Bertie and Jeeves stories. They were ok, I guess. I donít remember much more than that. Then a couple years ago our local PBS station ran or reran the Bertie and Jeeves stories with Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie and I loved them, especially Stephen Fry as Jeeves. So when I started reading Will's reviews, bells went off and whistles whistled in the back of my head but I never got around to buying any of them. Then last summer, I was looking for Virginia Woolf in the used bookstore and found Wodehouse instead so I bought a couple. But I never got around to reading them. So last week, I was browsing the shelves in my sewing room where all my books are stashed and I found the books I bought and read one. And then I read another. And then I went to the Large Chain Bookstore and bought a bunch more. Which is to say, I am hooked. Thanks, Will.

Anyway, I started with Pigs Have Wings, a Blandings story published in 1952. The Blandings stories have at their center Blandings Castle and it's owner the slightly dim Lord Emsworth. And the center of his world is the Empress of Blandings, his beloved pig, whom in this story he is fattening up to win the prize at the local Fair for largest pig. And then there is Sir Galahad Threepwood, his old but rakish brother, and Beach, his port-drinking butler. His competition at the Fair is his grossly overweight neighbor, Sir Gregory Parsloe-Parsloe and his pig, The Queen of Matchingham. And he employs Lord Emsworth's former "pig man," George Cyril Wellbeloved, who smells of, um, pig and has a mighty taste for beer. There are love stories, deceptions, mistaken identities, pig thefts and general rushing about in the two seater that fill in the plot of the novel. Summer Lightning, published in 1929, is essentially the same with different girls and a few other characters. In fact, whole passages are repeated at the beginning of the book, which gave me a weird sense of deja vu. I suppose Wodehouse thought it worked well one time, why not repeat it again.

The first thing I noticed is the language. His puns are merciless. I spent much of the time reading and chuckling out loud, to my husband's annoyance. Sir Galahad Threepwood has some of the funniest lines I have read in a long, long time. And the descriptions of the way characters move or look is priceless. I thought about underlining them so I could go back and find them later. About half way thru the Pigs have Wings, I realized that Wodehouse had woven a pretty complicated web of interconnection between the characters that he then was peeling back one by one in the final pages of the story. You know the ending will be happy, you just don't quite know how he is going to do it.

I can't wait to read Bertie and Jeeves.

Posted by Deb English at October 24, 2002 05:04 PM