P. G. Wodehouse
Pelham ("Plum") Grenville Wodehouse (pronounced "Woodhouse") was the greatest writer in English of this century--but sadly overlooked by most `serious' critics because he wrote comedy and lyrics for musicals. As a lyricist, Wodehouse was the father of the modern musical. In the early part of this century Kern, Bolton and Wodehouse wrote a number of musicals for a tiny New York theatre, the Princess--and transformed the American muscial forever. Before, the musical comedy had "exotic" locales and simple music and was based on the operetta of the 19th century. Bolton, Kern and Wodehouse made it a play with music, set in contemporaneous society and featuring ordinary people. Furthermore the lyrics of the song were an integral part of the plot. The pinnacle of this sort of music is surely Bill, written in 1917 and used by Kern in Showboat--a haunting song about a man so ordinary that the girl can't explain why she loves (Just My) Bill.
And as a wordsmith he has no equal. He could, as Evelyn Waugh put it, "produce on average three uniquely brilliant and original similes to every page". His stories were not written to be "important" or to appeal to critics; they were straightforward humour. He was a punctilious and diligent writer whose only aim was to make as many people as possible laugh.
Here is an excerpt from the introduction to Summer Lightning:
There are still some people that believe that Wodehouse was a traitor during WW2, some sort of Lord Haw-Haw. This is complete hogwash; here's more on the matter, and here's what George Orwell said about it.
One of Wodehouse's foremost admirers was Evelyn Waugh. I also have a collection of things that Waugh said about PGW.
Today, Wodehouse is not as famous as he should be--at least among the lay public. If you ask authors though, he still consistently places near the top of lists of influences. (For instance, here's Stephen Fry writing in The Independent*.) If you're interested, I'd be happy to recommend some books.
Try a random quote.
There is also a mailing list of people interested in Wodehouse, called
PGWnet - to join, send
Other Items of Interest to Wodehouse FansOn the use of racist terms
What does a banjolele sound like?
What's that? You are a Wodehouse
afficionado, you say? Well, then, how about joining
The Wodehouse Society? In
The P. G. Wodehouse
Society (UK). Or the perhaps
P. G. Wodehouse Society.
|*||If the link to The Independent is broken, try this one|