Tag Archives: Wood Hills Literary and Debating Society

Wodehouse Pick-Me-Ups – which stories would be in your collection?

P.G. Wodehouse Pick Me UpsThe P G Wodehouse Society (UK) wants to know which three short stories you would include in a Wodehouse Pick-Me-Up edition. 

In the latest edition of Wooster Sauce, Quarterly Journal of The P G Wodehouse Society (UK), the Society is offering members who answer this question the chance to win copies of Random House’s new ‘Pick-Me-Up’ editions. For anyone not already ‘in the know’, the article describes this collection as follows:

Punningly termed ‘pick-me-up’s’ to reflect both their expected sales position near the tills and the expressed belief that Wodehouse writing offers a pick-me-up for any reader, no matter what their problems may be, they each contain three of his best stories.

Members are invited to submit their response and explain, ‘in not more than 50 words why you believe they would have the desired effect on the reader.’

How would you attempt such a selection?

Would you stick to indisputable classics like Uncle Fred Flits By? Would you aim for a representative sample from three different series? Or a ‘best of’ selection featuring a particular character? What about three stories on a common theme? The possibilities and permutations are mind-boggling.

I set my mind boggling to the challenge, and this is what I came up with.

Honoria’s Wodehouse Pick-Me-Up

As the challenge set by the Society is a personal one (they ask which stories you would choose to boost the well-being of the reader), I have selected three stories that meet the following criteria:

– I laughed out loud the first time I read them, uncontrollably and from the belly, until I was in tears.

– I attempted to read each of them aloud to someone else, but failed, because I couldn’t control my laughter.

–  The joy of each story remains undiminished after multiple readings – the belly laughs may be controlled, but the stories still induce beaming and general contentment.

I offer my personal Pick-Me Up collection as follows.

1. The Reverent Wooing of Archibald

From: Mr Mulliner Speaking

Mr Mulliner SpeakingThe speech to which he had been listening was unusually lucid and simple for a Baconian, yet Archibald, his eye catching a battle-axe that hung on the wall, could not but stifle a wistful sigh. How simple it would have been, had he not been a Mulliner and a gentleman, to remove the weapon from its hook, spit on his hands, and haul off and dot this doddering old ruin one just above the imitation pearl necklace.

Herein lies one of the problems with quoting Wodehouse. It’s good stuff to be sure, but a quotation can never do justice to the joys of coming across such lines in their proper context. When I first encountered them, I laughed for fully ten minutes. Unable to compose myself sufficiently to read the story aloud, I played an audio recording by Jonathan Cecil to my family instead.

This proved to be the stuff to give the troops. My 11 year-old daughter has since played the recording over 50 times – it is daily bedtime listening in our house. She knows it better than I do and frequently drops quotes into conversation.  ‘The Reverent Wooing of Archibald’ will always hold a special place in my heart as the story that converted her from the child of a Wodehouse reader, to a budding enthusiast in her own right.

The ramblings of Aurelia Cammarleigh’s Baconian aunt, and Archibald’s imitation of a hen laying an egg are priceless.

2. The Clicking of Cuthbert 

From: The Clicking of Cuthbert and Other Stories

The Clicking of Cuthbert by P.G. WodehouseHis first glance at the novelist surprised Cuthbert. Doubtless with the best of motives, Vladimir Brusiloff had permitted his face to become almost entirely concealed behind a dense zareba of hair, but his eyes were visible through the undergrowth, and it seemed to Cuthbert that there was an expression in them not unlike that of a cat in a strange backyard surrounded by small boys.  

So good it has already given its name to a collection of golf stories, The Clicking of Cuthbert is indisputably among Wodehouse’s best. As a mere golfer, Cuthbert Banks is an outside chance in the race for Adeline Smethurst’s affections – all the smart money is on aspiring novelist Raymond Parsloe Devine. Wodehouse expertly manoeuvres the odds in Cuthbert’s favour, while poking terrific fun at the snobs of the Wood Hills Literary and Debating Society.

But it’s the great Russian novelist Vladimir Brusiloff who really steals the show.

It is too much to say that there was a dead silence. There could never be that in any room in which Vladimir Brusiloff was eating cake.

3. Tried in the Furnace

From: Young Men in Spats 

The human cargo, as I say, had started out in a spirit of demureness and docility. But it was amazing what a difference a mere fifty yards of the high road made to these Mothers. No sooner were they out of sight of the Vicarage than they began to effervesce to an almost unbelievable extent. The first intimation Barmy had that the binge was going to be run on lines other than those which he had anticipated was when a very stout mother in a pink bonnet and a dress covered with bugles suddenly picked off a passing cyclist with a well directed tomato, causing him to skid into a ditch. Upon which, all sixteen Mothers laughed like fiends in hell, and it was plain that they considered that the proceedings had now been formally opened.

Honoria reads Young Men in Spats

Tried in the Furnace would be the title for my collection – it neatly encapsulates the feeling that so often prompts readers to select a Wodehouse book from the shelf and apply it to their soul like a healing balm.

This story, set in in Maiden Eggesford, recounts the trials of Cyril (‘Barmy’) Fotheringay-Phipps and Reginald (‘Pongo’) Twistleton- Twistleton, who each undertake some act of good works in the parish, in an effort to impress Angelica Briscoe, daughter of the Rev P.P. Briscoe. Pongo oversees the School Treat, while Barmy is entrusted with the village Mothers’ Annual Outing.

Wodehouse also touches briefly on the trials of these village mother’s.

When you are shut up all the year round in a place like Maiden Eggesford, with nothing to do but wash underclothing and attend Divine Service, you naturally let yourself go a bit at times of festival and holidays.  

Much like Pongo’s Uncle Fred, when permitted to roam at large in the metropolis, Wodehouse gives these Maiden Eggesford mothers the toot of a lifetime – and as a hard-working mother myself, I appreciate it. For a brief moment, I am that stout mother in a pink bonnet, picking off cyclists with tomatoes, and my burdens seem a little lighter when I’m done. 

How to enter

The competition ends 15 January and is open to all members of The P G Wodehouse Society (UK). See page 3 of the December Wooster Sauce for details on how to enter.

To become a Society member, simply complete the membership application form (available from their website www.pgwodehousesociety.org.uk) and follow the instructions.

Toodle-pip!

HP

2016 Mini Reading Challenge: include a book by P.G. Wodehouse

wodehouse with relish2
Wodehouse with relish

At around this time each year, we bookworms launch ourselves with relish into a new year of reading challenges. If you’re participating, you may have a few books notched up already. This year, I’m throwing a little side challenge — to include a book by PG Wodehouse in your 2016 reading. If the challenge isn’t enough to tempt you, I’m also offering a book prize. Read on for details.

 

For those uninitiated in the concept, an annual reading challenge is usually a list of categories – your challenge being to read a book in each one. The underlying idea is to expand your literary diet beyond your favourite genre. There are multiple book challenges you can attempt, as a quick Internet search will reveal. Popular examples include:

WordPress book blogger rakioddbooks has helpfully combined the first two challenges into a long list.

You’re unlikely to find Wodehouse specified on any reading challenge list. The popular examples listed here don’t specifically include comedy, romance, short story collections or school stories either. As a Wodehouse blogger with a terrible memory, I have a professional responsibility to read and re-read as much Wodehouse as possible (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it). So throughout 2016, I’ll be looking for cunning ways to include as much Wodehouse in my 2016 challenge reading as possible.

Why not join me, and include a dash of Wodehouse in your 2016 reading too?
Following last year’s Fatty O’Leary competition, I’ve developed a taste for prize-giving. This year I’m offering a £10 book voucher to whoever comes up with the most creative way to include a book by P.G. Wodehouse in their 2016 reading challenge.

How to enter
Simply post a comment to this piece, telling us:

  • which P.G. Wodehouse book you read in 2016; and
  • which reading challenge and category you included it under.

If you’ve written a review, please share that with us too.

You don’t have to be actively participating in a reading challenge to enter, as long as you have read (or re-read) the book in 2016, and can tell us which reading challenge and category you would categorise the book under.

The winner will be chosen by the usual committee (self and cat) and announced in December. First prize is a book voucher worth £10. I also have a mystery Wodehouse book prize, which I’ll be giving away during the year.

For more discussion about books
Join our Facebook book club, The Wood Hills Literary Society. As the name suggests, the group was started by Wodehouse fans, wanting to read, share and discuss books beyond Wodehouse (our name comes from Mrs Smethurst’s literary society in The Clicking of Cuthbert). We’ve incorporated some reading challenge categories in our monthly reading themes. New members are always welcome.

Happy reading!

HP

Great Wodehouse Romances: The Clicking of Cuthbert

220px-TheClickingOfCuthbertP. G. Wodehouse gave us many romances that linger long in our affections. Each February at Plumtopia is dedicated revisiting the Great Wodehouse Romances to mark the anniversary of his death on St Valentine’s Day, 1975.

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Cuthbert Banks and Adeline Smethurst

One of the delights of a Wodehouse romance, is the inventiveness with which he steers his heroes and heroines toward their first meeting. Some of these introductions happen ‘off-stage,’ especially in the Wooster narratives, but elsewhere we are privileged witnesses to some truly memorable meetings. Among his fruitiest is the moment when golfer Cuthbert Banks interrupts Raymond Parsloe Devine’s lecture to the Wood Hills Literary and Debating Society, in order to play his ball – with a niblick – from on top of the table.

‘I have dwelt upon this incident, because it was the means of introducing Cuthbert Banks to Mrs Smethurst’s niece, Adeline. As Cuthbert, for it was he who had so nearly reduced the muster-roll of rising novelists by one, hopped down from the table after his stroke, he was suddenly aware that a beautiful girl was looking at him intently. As a matter of fact, everyone in the room was looking at him intently, none more so than Raymond Parsloe Devine, but none of the others were beautiful girls. Long as the members of Wood Hills Literary Society were on brain, they were short on looks, and, to Cuthbert’s excited eye, Adeline Smethurst stood out like a jewel in a pile of coke.’

Cuthbert quickly falls in love with Adeline, but she is a serious-minded girl who expects her future mate to achieve something worth while in life. The rising novelist Raymond Parsloe Devine is a clear favourite over Cuthbert, whose only achievements are on the golf course. Cuthbert’s efforts to prove himself worthy involve joining the aforementioned literary society, bringing together the worlds of golf and ‘serious’ literature.

‘After attending eleven debates and fourteen lectures on vers libre Poetry, the Seventeenth-Century Essayists, the Neo-Scandinavian Movement in Portuguese Literature, and other subjects of a similar nature, he grew so enfeebled that, on the rare occasions when he had time for a visit to the links, he had to take a full iron for his mashie shots.’

The great treat, in the Clicking of Cuthbert, is not so much our satisfaction when Cuthbert finally clicks, but the manner of his clicking. More specifically, we have the pleasure of meeting one of the great Russian novelists, Vladimir Brusiloff.

‘Vladimir specialized in grey studies of hopeless misery, where nothing happened till page three hundred and eighty, when the moujik decided to commit suicide.’

Every precious word written about Brusiloff is worth quoting. He is a splendidly drawn character who puts the pretentious aspiring novelist Raymond Parsloe Devine in his place.

‘No novelists any good except me. Sovietski — yah! Nastikoff — bah! I spit me of zem all. No novelists anywhere any good except me. P G Wodehouse and Tolstoi not bad. Not good, but not bad. No novelists any good except me.’

With Devine unmasked, Adeline ceases to be under his spell and finally turns her attentions to Cuthbert (I won’t give away all of the details). Adeline is not Plum’s most endearing heroine. She may be beautiful, but her initial objections to marrying Cuthbert are rather cold-blooded, and she lacks the pep and ginger of Plum’s more beloved female characters. But Adeline does redeem herself by taking up golf with enthusiasm.

‘Adeline is married to Cuthbert, and it was only his earnest pleading which prevented her from having their eldest son christened Abe Mitchell Ribbed-Faced Mashie Banks.’

The Clicking of Cuthbert must be regarded as one of the great Wodehouse romances. The worthy hero stays true to his love, persevering in the face of stiff opposition, and conquering against the odds in the most spectacular fashion. Romance aside, it is a perfectly crafted short story, packed with the sort of writing that makes it impossible to read aloud without laughing.

If you’ve never read the Clicking of Cuthbert, or want to refresh your memory, you can read the full story (with annotations) at the excellent Madam Eulalie website.

HP