Thursday 24 December 2015

My relationship with PG Wodehouse goes back to his name over and over on book spines along the Ws on the last shelf of the town library. I wasn't ready for eggs, beans and crumpets, the empress of Blandings, Jeeves etc. This was a foreign language. I'd learn French first.

Ten years went by. I read Virgil Dante Kafka Montaigne Rimbaud Proust Beckett and Mallarmé. PG Wodehouse had to be authenticated by a man who also read all of the above, an Irishman, as it happened, one of my teachers at university.

Comfort reading has many fellow-travellers. PG Wodehouse carries an Irishman, several Frenchman and a deal of insomnia. I like reading him in the middle of the night. His sentences give the most somnolent, mindless, delightful pleasure. The plot is always secondary to the delight, and delight is a launching pad into sleep, if you're lucky, if you're not preoccupied with—for example—how you lost the pruning knife again in the dying light of the winter solstice.

I can be irritated by his misogyny—all women—and there are few—are aunts or writers or gorgons or all three; and his poor rich young men keeping up appearances in all kinds of ingenious ways, but you can reside in his language without reference, almost, to the stuff of his tales. 'In the most apparently Grade A ointment there is always a fly'.

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