‘There are moments, Jeeves, when one asks oneself,
“Do trousers matter?”‘
‘The mood will pass, sir.’The Code of the Woosters
I’m going to skip the preliminary disparaging of 2020. It’s been a stinker of a year, but you know this already. Merriam-Webster summed things up nicely; when announcing pandemic as their word of the year, they revealed that top words searched for in 2020 included unprecedented, coronavirus, quarantine, schadenfreude, malarkey and Kraken.
Another word seems to have been undergoing a much-needed rehabilitation this year—escapism. With the therapeutic benefits of reading now well understood, perhaps 2020 (a year with little else to recommend it) may signal a turning point in recognising the merits of escapist fiction and its contribution to our health and happiness.
Wodehouse has often been classified as escapism, as grounds for derision by his critics or apology by admirers. But in 2020, readers are giving themselves permission to look for literary escape and are finding Wodehouse is just the tonic they’re after.
It’s no longer possible to keep up with the many articles and Wodehouse recommendations that continue to pop up, particularly online, but I’ve included a selection from 2020 for further reading at the end of this piece.
I escaped to Wodehouse a long time ago and was fortunate to enter 2020 fully equipped with a complet(ish) Wodehouse library. No Doomsday Prepper should be without one. At my lowest ebb, I turn to Jonathan Cecil’s audiobook recordings—at all hours of the day and night—as the closest thing we have to taking Wodehouse intravenously.
And I’ve needed it in 2020, courtesy of a particularly gruelling year at work.
Whose is that form sitting on the steps of the bank in the morning, waiting eagerly for the place to open? It is the form of Psmith, the Worker. Whose is that haggard, drawn face which bends over a ledger long after the other toilers have sped blithely westwards to dine at Lyons’ Popular Cafe? It is the face of Psmith, the Worker.’Psmith in the City
Happily, the escape to Wodehouse this year has been a shared one. Along with fellow members of the P.G. Wodehouse Book Club, my reading list has included plenty of Jeeves and Wooster, visits to Blandings and the Angler’s Rest, and time with old pals Psmith, Ukridge, Monty Bodkin and Uncle Fred. Our book club has grown to around 1000 members from around the world—including new Wodehouse readers and much-admired experts. Thank you all!
For Plumtopia readers not involved in the book club, please accept my apologies for the lengthy time between drinks. I speak figuratively of course—the time between literal drinks at Chez Honoria has narrowed to the point of indecency.
You can expect a resurgence of blithering at Plumtopia in 2021 as I hope to be back to (what passes for) normal very soon. In the meantime, here is a selection of what 2020 had to offer on the subject of Plum.
With my fondest wishes to you all.
2020 on Wodehouse
Love, rehearsal and audience — Wodehouse and Theatre by PG Wodehouse the Satirist (WordPress Blog) 29 March 2020
Two Paths for the Comic Novel (and the Funniest Books to Read in Quarantine) by Katy Waldman (The New Yorker) 27 April 2020
Wartime for Wodehouse by Rivka Galchen (The New Yorker) 25 May 2020
My Happy Place: The man who wrote the most perfect sentences ever written by Nicholas Barber (BBC Culture) 2 June 2020
Why P.G. Wodehouse Is Seeing a Welcome, Timely Resurgence by Tobias Carroll (Inside Hook) 6 June 2020
The Valet and Drifter Helping Me Get Through Quarantine by David Rees (The New York Times Magazine) 9 June 2020
P. G. Wodehouse’s Influence on Classic Crime Fiction by Cross Examining Crime (WordPress Blog) 27 June 2020
P.G. Wodehouse in a pandemic: wit and perfect prose to restore the soul by Carly Osborn (The Conversation) 3 August 2020
“Jill the Reckless” at 100 by Andrew Crowther (Life In Topseyturveydom WordPress Blog) 8 October 2020
The enduring appeal of Jeeves and Wooster by Alexander Larman (The Critic) 16 October 2020
Why PG Wodehouse is my guilty pleasure by Phillip Adams(The Weekend Australian Magazine) 7 November 2020
A Plum ‘n Tonic’ – The Wodehouse Remedy (Tata Literature Live! The Mumbai Litfest) 19 November 2020 (Panel and entertainment hosted by James Naughtie)
Jeeves and the Social Media Challenge by the inimitable Ashok Bhatia (WordPress Blog) 23 November 2020
PG Wodehouse: Why India still holds a flame for the English author by Vincent Dowd (BBC News) 27 November 2020
A Virtual Tour of PG Wodehouse’s London (now taking 2021 bookings)
Uncle Fred in the Springtime –a piece of electronic music by self and daughter (Bandcamp) 5 December 2020. A bit of musical therapy shamelessly sneaked into the list because… well, why not?
Let me know if your favourite 2020 Plum pieces are missing and I’ll add them to the list.