Over the years, I have had people heap scorn on me for not reading Wodehouse and yet claiming to enjoy English humour. I was told endlessly that I was missing the ‘real stuff’ and had to learn the hard way, that there was such a thing as a coolness factor even in the seemingly above-that-kind-of-crap world of books. Finally, last winter, I found myself reading a book I was generously gifted on my birthday, – Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen by P. G. Wodehouse – eager to discover what all the fuss was about and ever so slightly desperate to fall back in the good graces of the cooler among us readers.
Far be it from me to disagree with Stephen Fry, whose blurb of delighted praise, the same one, stubbornly appears on every single Wodehouse book I own; but I didn’t as enjoy reading the books as I hoped to. I did like the language, don’t get me wrong, the multi-layered (which I hear is the word everyone uses to describe it) apt humour and the constant realizations it sent through me that none of it could have been written any other way. It was a stroll through language heaven.
But here’s the thing: I always picture true makes-you-laugh-out-loud humour floating through space on a turtle, which, you have to admit, is far more imaginative. I’ve only read three Wodehouse(s?) but the plots were all recycled. The confusions, misapprehensions and the solutions were all quite the same. And hilariously portrayed, though they were (am I being oddly defensive in my criticism?), they were rather dull. I like stories, almost as much as I like humour. After a while, I stopped wanting to find out about Wooster’s odd ex-love interests and apparent re-interests and his insufferable neighbours and relatives and the nice Carson-ly Jeeves. The characterizations, for me, were somewhat irrelevant, considering my yardstick to judge the Englishman stereotypes is more fiction. For all I know, it may have as much truth in it as every Indian guy’s accent on an American show.
After making me laugh and smirk and snicker for a day or two: when I was done, the books made me slightly wary and drained of patience, in that: that was all good, but not another, please. At the end of the day, if I want a laugh, I’ll go back to my four trusted elephants.