2020 Escape to Wodehouse

‘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!

The PG Wodehouse Book Club’s 2020 Reading List

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.  

HP

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.

21 thoughts on “2020 Escape to Wodehouse

  1. I’ve often found, in the dreariest times, that a re-reading of the complete Mulliner stories to be just the pick-me-up needed. That and my hot cup of the soothing bohea in the morning (and afternoon, and evening…) will stimulate the old corpuscles in ways marvelous to behold.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear Mrs Plum, how good it is to see you back in action. I was beginning to worry that you’d not merely locked down but locked out. PGW has indeed been a source of great solace during the pestilence. Your reading list is, as usual, comprehensive. Pip, pip.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. As ever, you sum things up beautifully, old girl,and that is a very good list of the best of this year’s articles about PGW. I’m sorry Ive been quiet on the Book Club front, though I tune into the discussions. It was a brilliant idea to get it going, and you are to be applauded for that, as it has brought a big ray of sunshine into an otherwise very grey world. Brava!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the kind words, Elin. No apologies necessary. It’s a lovely group to dip into and chat with and we’d be thrilled to see you when the mood takes you. But it’s entirely without obligation. That’s the last thing anyone needs this year.

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  4. On yet another grey december day (the only kind we have had this year, it seems) it was like a ray of sunshine to start with this Honorian post.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Dear Mrs. Plum, Thank you for this. Your posts always raise my spirits – particularly during this difficult year, when you, Wooster Sauce (the magazine of the P G Wodehouse Soc. (UK) and an extensive study of PGW’s opus have gone a long way towards keeping me cheerful. Regards, Psalter.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. In 2020 our dear friend Plum was the Old Reliable.
    As we escape this bally year, we can count on him to stay there for us in 2021.
    This year, I have enjoyed reading Damsel in Distress, Summer Moonshine, The Little Nugget, and If I Were You, to name a few. But also Wodehouse at War (Iain Sproat) and Usborne’s Wodehouse at Work to the End, that I really enjoyed. And then somewhere I read an article about English humorist novels, mentioning -needless to say- Wodehouse, but also Iris Murdoch. Well, even though Aunt Iris knows how to write a story, I was ready for Cocktail Time the moment I finished her book.
    I picked up an old penguin edition, oft-read and so it lost its cover (must have given much satisfaction) of Jeeves in the Offing… I almost recommend to tear off the cover, because that naked first page is such a marvel. It is the page I by far have read most times, of any written work, as the book was in eye-sight on my desk during lockdown. It made me wonder about Crispin’s Day too, which led me to the Old Bard and Henry V, then to the many YouTube versions of the speech (Mark Rylance at The Globe is my favourite, with Laurence Olivier’s rendering in 1944 second), and -dare I admit- to a hand written copy of the speech on the inside of my bathroom door.
    And on the vigil (24/10, St Cripin’s is the 25th of October) the names of Wodehouse characters were household words, and freshly remembered in our flowing cups.
    Amongst my good deeds for the year I count offering a large set of Wodehouse novels to my mother and spreading the word, introducing his writing to a number of friends.
    Thank you Honoria Plum for your blog!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are most welcome, Framlinghame old bean. Your reply perfectly captures the extended pleasures of Wodehouse. I love buzzing off down the many rabbit holes of interest that reading his stuff leads us to discover. Your revelation regarding the Crispin’s Day speech (I must look that up on You Tube) has conjured a delightful mental image, of you giving recitations in a bathrobe, that has quite transformed my gloomy mental outlook on the day. Thank you!

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  7. Lovely to “see” you again!
    I have been taking twice daily doses of Wodehouse as I brush my teeth. It has been an excellent aid to my health both mental and dental (albeit with occasional risk of choking on a brush/laughter combo).

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  8. Thanks for the update and I look forward to more in coming times. On another note, can you change the hosting platform for the Book Club away from Facebook? I’m not on FB and have no intention to join it. So I can’t participate in the club.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We do have some people participating on Twitter using the hashtag #PGWClub. I notice you are Australian. There are a few Australians involved (mostly in Vic and SA), so we may even manage to meet up face to face this year.

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