Saturday, September 15, 2007

Wodehouse Updated via Kyril Bonfiglioli, circa 1972

I don't trust a book review that compares an author to P.G. Wodehouse: it's never apt. For example, Paul Murray's An Evening of Long Goodbyes. Sure, the narrator's British and he's featherheaded and feckless, but that book is so freighted with sadness that it's a ridiculous comparison. But recently I stumbled on a book that was described by a reader as "Like Wodehouse on acid," and for once, the comparison is dead-on.


He greeted me with his usual surliness: dealers in illegal firearms almost never smile, you must have noticed that. [p. 47]
(I yield to none when it comes to eyebrow-raising; I was taught by my father himself, who could have eyebrow-raised for Great Britain had he not been so haughty.) [p. 105]
Item - our narrator is speaking figuratively of a verbal skirmish he has just lost:
'Thank you, yes,' he replied. My attack was wiped out. I felt just like an infantry subaltern who has thrown away a platoon against a machine-gun emplacement he forgot to mark on his map. (Listening to the Colonel's remarks afterwards is not nearly so unpleasant as sitting down to write twenty letters to next-of-kin while the people in the Orderly Room pretend you're not there. The worst bit is when your batman brings you your dinner to the foxhole or bivvy-tent, saying 'Thought you might be too tired to dine in the Mess tonight. Sir.' But I reminisce.) [p. 131]
The clerk droned legally for a while; Jaggard put on a joke-policeman voice while he read bits from his notebook about how he had proceeded from here to there on information received ... but I must not trouble you with such minutiae: I am sure you have been in magistrates' courts yourselves. [p. 165]
Item (in which our hero is on the losing end of a shoot-out in a factory that butchers pigs):
Had I been a religious man I should probably have offered up a brisk prayer or two, but I am proud, you see: I mean, I never praised Him when I was knee-deep in gravy so it would have seemed shabby to apply for help from a bacon-factory. [p. 178]
From Kyril Bonfiglioli's1972 After You with the Pistol.

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J. C. said...

Sad to live in a country in which a Wodehouse would have so little relevance to the reading public. Best competition? Twain's touch is much heavier, more pointed. Irving? Terry Southern? Vonnegut? kDorothy Parker? Gore Vidal? Perelman? Robert Benchley may come the closest. No, make it Nathaniel West. --J. C.

Benjamin Chambers said...

I sure can't think of anyone with the same glee for farce. Donleavy -- who's American -- comes close sometimes, but of course he's misogynistic and melancholy.