Sunday, December 09, 2007

"Derisively," I explained.

Since Belle has the poetry blogging well in hand, I think I'll treat (subject) you to some prose blogging. But can't we give prose some love too? For while prose can feature many of the same delightful lyric qualities that make for joy-giving poetry (see, for example, the end of Coetzee's Elizabeth Costello), it has some virtues especially suited to the narrative form. And Wodehouse was to those virtues what Socrates was to wisdom, yo. Thus, consider two excerpted selections from two of the Jeeves books. As follows:

1. Absurdism

'Jeeves' services will not be required,' I said. 'I can handle this business. The programme which I have laid out will be quite sufficient to take young Tuppy's mind off love-making. It is my intention to insert the Luminous Rabbit in his room at the first opportunity that presents itself. The Luminous Rabbit shines in the dark and jumps about, making odd, squeaking noises. It will sound to young Tuppy like the Voice of Conscience, and I anticipate that a single treatment will make him retire into a nursing-hope for a couple of weeks or so. At the end of which period he will have forgotten all about the bally girl.'

2. Sharp Banter

So you think I'm going to strew prizes at this bally Dotheboys Hall of yours?'
'I do.'
'And make a speech?'
I laughed derisively.
'For goodness' sake, don't start gargling now. This is serious.'
'I was laughing.'
'Oh were you? Well, I'm glad to see you taking it in this merry spirit.'
'Derisively,' I explained. 'I won't do it. That's final. I simply will not do it.'

After starting on this Wodehouse kick of mine, I've found myself thinking "faugh!" on a frightfully regular basis. But now I must learn how to pronounce it.

Wodehouse's more contemporary heir was Kyril Bonfiglioli. Sadly, he only got a few books out before he died, but he too had the virtues in spades:

3. Misanthropy:

"It all started -- or at any rate the narrative I have to offer started -- at Easter that year: that season when we remind each other of the judicial murder of a Jewish Revolutionary two thousand years ago by distributing chocolate eggs to the children of people we dislike."

It is odd how my favorite writers all have contemporary heirs who come close to, but don't quite reach, the greatness of the master. (The exception being Byron, who, of course, can be followed by none.) For Kafka, there is Coetzee. For Hunter S. Thompson, there is Cintra Wilson. And for Wodehouse, there is Bonfiglioli. But I am definitely hooked on the vicious insult and scathing wit school of writers now. I shall have to go back and re-read Twain, Mencken, and Wilde in addition to Wodehouse and Bonfiglioli, and perhaps acquire Blackadder DVDs.