Thursday, November 19, 2009

Psmith, Journalist, by P.G. Wodehouse

My fool-proof plan of using a comma to separate the title from the author in my post titles doesn't work when the title bears commas itself. Bastards.

This book was the third Psmith book Wodehouse wrote, but it seems like one that has fallen into obscurity. Firstly, Wodehouse himself used it as a scrap pile, reworking its contents into no fewer than two other novels. Secondly, it appears to have a lapsed copyright, meaning it's hard to find these days because no one can make much money from selling it. I had to get it from a library two counties away. Thirdly, the elements of the usual Psmith novel are missing. It's the only one set in America, and Mike is virtually absent from the entire book. This is more of a stand-alone story than part of a series, which is why its parts could be mixed and matched with those of The Prince and Betty so easily.

This book was my least-favorite of the Psmith books, but by the end I didn't hate it as much as I did in the middle. There was basically no cricket at all (other than explaining Mike's absence by a cricket tour of America), and Psmith becomes uncharacteristically passionate about the plight of tenement dwellers on the Lower East Side. When Psmith needs some money, he suddenly has a dead rich uncle who left him a legacy, although there was no mention of this in Psmith in the City when he is working at the New Asiatic Bank. All of these things left me feeling like it was just a novel that Wodehouse decided to shoehorn Psmith into.

That being said, it was still funny throughout. Psmith's mannerisms and speech patterns give humor to lines like, "Are you good at riddles, Comrade Parker? How much wood would a wood-chuck chuck, assuming for purposes of argument that it was in the power of a wood-chuck to chuck wood?" (206). And I appreciated the story Psmith tells to describe his abilities as a journalist:

"You may leave it to me, Comrade Windsor. I am no hardened old journalist, I fear, but I have certain qualifications for the post. A young man once called at the office of a certain newspaper, and asked for a job. 'Have you any special line?' asked the editor. 'Yes,' said the bright lad, 'I am rather good at invective.' 'Any special kind of invective?' queried the man up top. 'No,' replied our hero, 'just general invective.' Such is my own case, Comrade Windsor. I am a very fair purveyor of good, general invective." (63)

Still, I would only recommend this book to Wodehouse fans who wished to read everything in the canon.

Rating: 4.5 out of 7 giant inflatable monkeys.

No comments:

Post a Comment