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Old 03-15-2018, 04:37 PM
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Where to start reading P.G.Wodehouse?


I think it's time that I gave P.G.Wodehouse a shot. I keep reading what a witty guy he was and I've never read any. Benchley, Thurber, yes, but Wodehouse? Not yet. Any suggestions as to something I could look at that isn't too dated, arch, corny or unfunny? Dopers?
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Old 03-15-2018, 04:45 PM
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Here's some advice: https://honoriaplum.wordpress.com/20...cal-challenge/

Either Carry On, Jeeves or The Inimitable Jeeves make a very good starting point. If you don't care for these collections of stories, you probably won't like anything else he did either.
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Old 03-15-2018, 04:56 PM
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Oh, you are in for a treat. I'm jealous.

And listen to as much as you can. A good lilting Brit accent can bring out the quirkiness of many of Wodehouse's characterizations.
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Old 03-15-2018, 05:18 PM
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I'd start with The Code of the Woosters. I did, and I read a whole lot of Wodehouse after that.
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Old 03-15-2018, 05:40 PM
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Here's some advice: https://honoriaplum.wordpress.com/20...cal-challenge/

Either Carry On, Jeeves or The Inimitable Jeeves make a very good starting point. If you don't care for these collections of stories, you probably won't like anything else he did either.
I think it's possible someone could dislike Jeeves but still like Mr. Mulliner and/or the golf stories. A fair amount of his works have fallen into public domain, and can be obtained from P. Gutenberg
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Old 03-15-2018, 07:05 PM
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And listen to as much as you can.
Jonathan Cecil's readings are great.
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Old 03-15-2018, 07:51 PM
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A few thoughts ...

The first Wodehouse book I ever read many years ago that got me to become a devoted fan and collector of original editions was Vintage Wodehouse, an eclectic short story collection. It's now out of print but you should be able to pick up a used one from Amazon affiliates or someplace like Abebooks.com. Failing that, there are lots of short story collections still in print or newly in print that will give you a feel for a wide range of Wodehouse, which is where I would start.

In that vein, don't think of Wodehouse as being just the Jeeves and Wooster novels and stories. The Jeeves stories are excellent but I never thought they were Wodehouse's best work, though many do. I think some of the Mulliner and Drones stories are more creative and funnier. He also wrote quite a large number of novels that had no major recurring characters.

With regard to things that are "not too dated", it's all dated, though not in a bad way. But to fully appreciate some of the humor you really have to acquire some perception of life and culture in early 20th century Britain -- the pervasiveness and role of the servant class, for instance, or the prevalence in society of what Wodehouse called the "knut", the independently wealthy young aristocrat who didn't have to work and spent his time in idle leisure. The knut was wealthy by virtue of his family and future inheritance, but often severely constrained in day-to-day cash, a theme that pervades many of the stories. You also have to get used to old British currency and the slang that goes with it -- to pounds, quids, shillings, and crowns, and to the idea that "a fiver" is a great deal of money. And of course, cars that are always breaking down.

You should be cautious about the Project Gutenberg material. The Wodehouse stuff that is out of copyright and available free is mostly his early writings, the most dated of all and not generally his best work. I would focus instead mostly on novels and collections that are currently in print, which tend to be the most popular ones. Many are available from Amazon, though in my own quests I have gone to UK bookstores, and the used book markets everywhere as far as Australia and New Zealand in search of books that were out of print or first editions. The Overlook Press in the US (and their equivalent in the UK, which I believe is called Everyman) publishes a hardback series of Wodehouse books in a uniform "collector's edition" that should be a good source for many of his works in a high quality, nicely bound form at reasonable cost.

Last edited by wolfpup; 03-15-2018 at 07:53 PM.
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Old 03-15-2018, 07:53 PM
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I’d recommend starting with The Most Of P.G. Wodehouse, which gives you a nice selection of stories with a variety of differenct characters and one short novel. And yes, listening to a good read or watching Fry and Laurie’s portrayal of Jeeves & Wooster will give an ear for the dialogue if you aren’t British.

I agree with wolfpup that the earlier works that are in the public domain are not his best, and whatever you think of the Jeeves & Wooster stories he has done excellent work with other characters.

Stranger

Last edited by Stranger On A Train; 03-15-2018 at 07:57 PM.
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Old 03-15-2018, 08:24 PM
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Stranger's suggestion of The Most of PG Wodehouse is excellent, and unlike Vintage Wodehouse -- which I remember fondly as my starting point in my Wodehouse journey -- The Most of is still in print in paperback. I have it, though had forgotten about it; I got it even though at the time I already had most of the content in other volumes (hey, I'm a collector!). It has the aforementioned Jeeves and Wooster, Mr. Mulliner, and some Drones stories -- all classic Wodehouse -- and the description also reminded me that the Blandings stories and novels featuring Lord Emsworth have been among my favorites, and some of the relatively scarcer Ukridge stories are among the funniest, and it has some of those, too.
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Old 03-15-2018, 09:18 PM
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I like the idea of hearing* some Woodhouse first. I'd read a couple of stories but didn't really "hear" the dialect until a student did a Woosteresque accent: "I say, let's pop down to Chumley's, what?" I'd never understood the "what?" at the end of so many posh asides (nor had I known how to pronounce "Chalmondalay").

I've since remedied that with a dozen or so audiobooks. Second only to Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry's voices, I do love Jonathan Cecil (I have a friend with that name, and I often say "Jawnny Sess'-ill").


*or seeing: here's some Jeeves and Wooster S01 E5: Will Anatole Return to Brinkley Court?

Youtube has a lot of Wodehouse. Oh, here's Fry on Wodehouse! And there's even a young lady opining on "P.G. Wodehouse: Where to begin?"

Last edited by digs; 03-15-2018 at 09:19 PM.
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Old 03-15-2018, 10:07 PM
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Carry On, Jeeves is where I started, at around 11 or 12 years old. That’s the one where the first story has the swans, right? You can’t go wrong with the swans. JEEVES, THE PLACE IS ALIVE WITH SWANS. Anyway, short stories to start is the best; you get your jollies quick, like cocaine.

When you go on to the Jeeves novels, I recommend Right Ho, Jeeves.. Save The Code of the Woosters and Joy in the Morning until you’re ready for deeper waters.

Then you can start on Lord Emsworth. What larks, eh?
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Old 03-16-2018, 12:51 PM
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Plenty of good advice in this thread, but I'll just throw out (in case it isn't obvious from context) that the Jeeves & Wooster stories don't really have any meaningful serialized story. You can start in the middle and be fine. As people have mentioned, the earliest stories aren't the strongest, but that doesn't mean you have to slog through them to get to the good stuff.
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Old 03-18-2018, 12:38 PM
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I mentioned the Overlook Press earlier as a good source for Wodehouse, most of the older editions and recompilations being out of print. I happened to be looking through the site just now to see if they had added any new volumes in the years since I last looked at their catalog, and indeed they have. In fact, Overlook in the US and their equivalent in the UK, the Everyman Library, are now undoubtedly the best source of new in-print Wodehouse material since the Wodehouse Penguin paperbacks went out of print, and probably the most complete Wodehouse collection from a single source ever. I was delighted to see that Louder and Funnier, one of the rarest Wodehouse books on the used market, has been added, as well as the wonderful semi-autobiography America, I Like You, oddly published by Overlook under its original UK title Over Seventy.

The books are nicely printed on good paper sewn into hardcover bindings. I'm not particularly fond of the style of dust jacket art, but that's just me. Most of the Wodehouse original editions had very colorful, almost cartoonish dust jackets, and the series of Penguin editions with the Chris Riddell art on the covers -- which was most but not all of them -- managed to capture that same spirit. Otherwise, these are physically very nicely made books, and the relative completeness of the collection today is remarkable.

The complete Overlook Wodehouse collection (and I presume Everyman is the same) now numbers 102 books, though that includes a few box sets that duplicate some of the others. The respective websites are here, and I believe all or most of the books should be available from Amazon and other major retailers:
http://www.overlookpress.com/p-g-wod...html?limit=all
http://www.everymanslibrary.co.uk/wodehouse.aspx

There are all kinds of websites that offer summaries and commentaries on what the stories are about -- it's not always clear to the new reader which are the Jeeves books, which are Blandings, etc. Also note that some of the short stories appear in more than one collection, so the avid book collector will inevitably have duplicates. Conversely, a collection like Ukridge isn't complete, since at least one of the best Ukridge stories IMHO, Ukridge and the Home from Home, isn't in it (it's in Lord Emsworth and Others). However, the three Mulliner books do indeed contain all the Mulliner stories between them.
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Old 03-18-2018, 03:14 PM
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Thanks for bringing this up. I have read random Wodehouse over the years, just whatever was on the shelf in the library. I really enjoyed the book I read about Psmith, and never thought to check if there were anymore with that character. I have just requested them from my library.
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Old 03-27-2018, 02:01 PM
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Is this the greatest website, or what! Thank you all for your wisely heartfelt and absolutely excellent advice. I've started with the Inimitable and Carry On and I love it. I'm ready, though, for new people, different settings and some different plots for now. Here I go. Thank you again.

Last edited by CC; 03-27-2018 at 02:01 PM.
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Old 03-27-2018, 02:08 PM
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Because of this thread, I've picked up The Inimitable Jeeves also. It's still a few layers down in the TBR pile, but I'm looking forward to it.
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Old 03-28-2018, 05:00 AM
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Is this the greatest website, or what! Thank you all for your wisely heartfelt and absolutely excellent advice. I've started with the Inimitable and Carry On and I love it. I'm ready, though, for new people, different settings and some different plots for now. Here I go. Thank you again.
I'm so glad that you're enjoying it and that the comments here were helpful. If you want to move on beyond the Jeeves stories, my personal favorites are the many Drones short stories (among the prominent characters being Bingo Little and the pimple-faced millionaire at the Drones Club, Oofy Prosser), all the Mulliner stories collected in the three Mulliner books, the Ukridge stories, and perhaps most of all, the idyllic Blandings stories and novels.

Evelyn Waugh, in a tribute to P. G. Wodehouse, once said that "For Mr. Wodehouse there has been no fall of Man; no 'aboriginal calamity.' His characters have never tasted the forbidden fruit. They are still in Eden. The gardens of Blandings Castle are that original garden from which we are all exiled."
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Old 03-28-2018, 07:44 AM
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Jonathan Cecil's readings are great.
My first experience with Wodehouse was Code of the Woosters, read by Cecil. It was awesome, though I did have the awkward experience of bursting out laughing on the treadmill at the gym. I got some odd looks.
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Old 03-29-2018, 09:38 AM
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I don't know about this.

No writers are any good except Vladimir Brusiloff. Sovietski is no good, and Nastikoff is worse than Sovietski. P.G. Wodehouse and Tolstoi are not bad. Not good, but not bad. But no novelists are any good except Vladimir Brusiloff.

So stick with Brusiloff, that's my suggestion.
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Old 03-29-2018, 01:36 PM
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No writers are any good except Vladimir Brusiloff. Sovietski is no good, and Nastikoff is worse than Sovietski. P.G. Wodehouse and Tolstoi are not bad. Not good, but not bad. But no novelists are any good except Vladimir Brusiloff.

So stick with Brusiloff, that's my suggestion.
True, but those observations have to be delivered in the proper style by a bearded Russian, in the following manner:
Down in the forest something stirred. It was Vladimir's mouth opening, as he prepared to speak. He was not a man who prattled readily, especially in a foreign tongue. He gave the impression that each word was excavated from his interior by some up-to-date process of mining. He glared bleakly at Mr. Devine, and allowed three words to drop out of him.

"Sovietski no good!"

He paused for a moment, set the machinery working again, and delivered five more at the pithead.

"I spit me of Sovietski!"
Of course, if you really want your love life to click you forget about authors altogether and stick with great golfers like Abe Mitchell and Harry Vardon.
"Yais! Yais! Most! Very!" shouted Vladimir Brusiloff, enthusiastically. "Arbmishel and Arreevadon. You know them, yes, what, no, perhaps?"
Which is also an example of how dated some of the cultural references are. Abe Mitchell was born in 1887 and died in 1947, Harry Vardon lived from 1870 to 1937.
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Old 03-29-2018, 02:02 PM
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I was delighted to see that Louder and Funnier, one of the rarest Wodehouse books on the used market, has been added, as well as the wonderful semi-autobiography America, I Like You, oddly published by Overlook under its original UK title Over Seventy.
I've just made an interesting discovery, FWIW. I have a copy of America, I Like You but, following my own advice about Overlook Press, I ordered the Overlook edition of Over Seventy -- the only version currently in print -- so I could have a clean new copy.

It turns out that the two books are quite substantially different. In fact at first glance they're not even the same book because all the chapter titles are different. It turns out that America, I Like You was first published in the US in May, 1956 by Simon & Schuster, but then for the UK edition, it was completely reorganized, parts of it rewritten, some things deleted, and a considerable amount of new material added, and published in October of the following year by Herbert Jenkins. It's evident that there's much more material in Over Seventy and obviously Wodehouse thought it benefited from the edits and additions which I suppose is why Overlook chose that edition, but from a casual perusal the much shorter America seems somehow snappier.

Oh, well, there are so many differences that it's like discovering a brand new Wodehouse book.

I should be clear that the Overlook books are completely faithful reprints of the original editions. We're talking here about an unusual case where there were two quite different original editions.
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Old 03-30-2018, 02:24 PM
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His wooster stories are his best known and what everyone raves about, but for my money, I prefer his Mulliner stories.

You get a more variety, and I personally prefer his third person voice to his first person.
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Old 03-30-2018, 02:46 PM
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With regard to things that are "not too dated", it's all dated, though not in a bad way. But to fully appreciate some of the humor you really have to acquire some perception of life and culture in early 20th century Britain -- the pervasiveness and role of the servant class, for instance, or the prevalence in society of what Wodehouse called the "knut", the independently wealthy young aristocrat who didn't have to work and spent his time in idle leisure.
I would go further and claim that they were dated at the time that he wrote them and that was part of the fun. His books are really about the lingering dated remnants of the aristocracy being faced with the rise of modernity such as existed in the 1920's. After a couple of short stories its pretty easy to figure out the world that he is portraying.

Young gentlemen are foolish ne'er-do-well's who are constantly broke and so try to borrow money from each other so they can going on drinking binges, resulting in such youthful hijinks as stealing helmets off policemen, and falling head over heals in love with the daughters of stodgy aristocrats, who do not approve of such frivolity, but who in the past had some rather embarrassing adventures of their own when they were a child at boarding school and received that unfortunate nickname.

Last edited by Buck Godot; 03-30-2018 at 02:46 PM.
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