Saturday, June 23, 2007

Good Intro

Tried reading Wodehouse's Leave it to Psmith today, but was too busy, only got through the introduction. Still, the intro, by Wilfrid Sheed, is very entertaining. Here are the first two paragraphs:

"Somewhere between the Romantic Revolution and the Great Victorian Exhibition of 1851 in England, suet pudding entered the English soul, after which it became almost impossible for that country to produce a pure artist. Despite generous help from Ireland, America, and even Poland, any Englishman who had been to a public school felt and looked like a perfect chump, a tourist, in the world of Flaubert and Rimbaud.

It was almost as if these schools, founded in the 1830's, had it for their main object that Shelley and Byron would never happen again. When such a one showed up, he was immediately laughed at, plunged into cold water and taught to laugh at himself for twelve grueling years; after which he was either hopelessly maimed, or would retreat with the crowd into humor, crossword puzzles, detective stories and the burdens of facetiousness."

Another section I liked:

"In the last days Wodehouse observed mildly that his childhood seemed to be just like Kipling's, except that he'd rather enjoyed his. But this was some triumph of will and selection. For just as George Orwell made a hell of his schooldays by fanning the right memories, Wodehouse made a heaven of his; and it is a clue to how close these processes are that Orwell and Kipling, the laureates of unhappiness, were among Plum Woodhouse's most ardent admirers. They knew the score."

And a heartening tidbit: "By all accounts, he was a friendly and obliging fellow; but no less an admirer than Evelyn Waugh described him privately as the dullest man he ever met. And socially he was famous for fleeing the kind of jolly scenes he wrote about to walk his dog."

Leaving a party for a quiet walk with the dog - that's my kind of guy. I love all the Jeeves books, can't wait to read Psmith.

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