Tag Archives: p g wodehouse

Favourite comfort reads and a new favourite recipe

Anonymous asked about favorite comfort reads, or favorite recipes.

Favourite comfort reads (a non-comprehensive list)

I’m going to specify titles ‘cos it’s interesting to think about which specific books by these authors I like best for comfort reading, but in most cases the authors’ entire oeuvres fall under the heading of “comfort reading” for me.

  • L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables. LMM is probably my #1 comfort read of all time actually. OF ALL TIME!
  • Patrick O’Brian, HMS Surprise
  • Georgette Heyer, Cotillion
  • Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre
  • Noel Streatfeild, Ballet Shoes
  • Jean Webster, Dear Enemy
  • Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
  • P. G. Wodehouse, Psmith books (cheating and naming all of them because I can’t remember which instalment is my favourite)

Oddly enough I don’t feel Terry Pratchett really belongs on the list, though I rate him higher than several of these authors in certain respects. I feel like Discworld really shaped my worldview, and showed me that it was possible for books to be genre and silly and fun but also serious and clever – but for whatever reason I don’t seem to have that deep emotional attachment to the books anymore. I still like and value them, but it’s like I’ve taken from them what I need, and don’t need them anymore.

Well, I say that, but if I were to embark upon a reread doubtless the feelings would return!

Incidentally nearly all the books/authors I name above I came to at around age 10-12, which is probably why they have stuck with me. The only two exceptions are O’Brian and Heyer, whom I discovered at around 16-18.

A favourite recipe

DIY chilli “pan mee”

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On P. G. Wodehouse

O Aisha, what is there to say about P. G. Wodehouse that has not been said before, and better? I found his books at a public library in Malaysia as a teenager, and I remember being astounded that there were books like those. That you were allowed to write like that, and have so much fun doing it!* It was a revelation.

Here are some examples of his peerless art, courtesy of the Random Wodehouse Quote Generator:

A young man with dark circles under his eyes was propping himself up against a penny-in-the-slot machine. An undertaker, passing at that moment, would have looked at this young man sharply, scenting business. So would a buzzard.

The stationmaster’s whiskers are of a Victorian bushiness and give the impression of having been grown under glass.

He spoke with a certain what-is-it in his voice, and I could see that, if not actually disgruntled, he was far from being gruntled.

He had once been a poet, and a very virulent one too; the sort of man who would produce a slim volume of verse bound in squashy mauve leather at the drop of a hat, mostly on the subject of sunsets and pixies.

Even at normal times Aunt Dahlia’s map tended a little towards the crushed strawberry. But never had I seen it take on so pronounced a richness as now. She looked like a tomato struggling for self-expression.

He was either a man of about a hundred and fifty who was rather young for his years or a man of about a hundred and ten who had been aged by trouble.

Things I have learnt from Wodehouse:

  • The joy of similes.
  • A working writer uses every tool that comes to hand, including his own previous work. Wodehouse cribbed from himself shamelessly, but it still kind of worked because he was so good. (Most of us will probably not reach the renown he attained anyway, and we will never have our selected stories compiled into omnibuses so that eagle-eyed readers can say to themselves, “Hey, wait a minute, didn’t he use that precise simile in that other Blandings story?” All the more reason to do it!)
  • Plot is hard and it’s worth working it out in advance so you can get to the fun bits. Wodehouse spent ages working up his absurd and yet effective plots. Even though it mostly seems that nothing really happens in his books and you are just borne along on a joyous stream of limpid silliness, it required real sweat to achieve the sublime heights of that one scene in Leave it to Psmith where that guy starts throwing flower-pots through Lord Emsworth’s window. I remind myself of this whenever I feel down about how hard working out a plausible, exciting plot is.
  • Everything you read is a potential punchline, so read everything.
  • There is no such thing as too silly a sentence.
  • It is a fool that underestimates an aunt.

 

*Not to mention make stinking amounts of money, but I didn’t clock this until some time later.

On postcolonial fluff for booknerds, made-up genre of my heart

atropinesulfate: I would love to hear about postcolonial fluff for booknerds, and any plans for a sequel to Jade Yeo/her descendants.

O postcolonial fluff for booknerds, made-up genre of my heart! Postcolonial is a big term and maybe not that accurate, but I use it because I think of this imaginary genre as being a reactive one, a thing that I am producing as part of a long slow recovery process. What I am doing with it is, I am processing my childhood reading — all the stuff that was really influential and enjoyable, but also kind of secretly toxic — and I am trying to extract the poison from it while preserving the things I loved. Jade is a reaction to Wodehouse and Daddy-Long-Legs and I Capture The Castle. The novel I am working on is a reaction to Georgette Heyer and Susanna Clarke.

It is questionable how much you can do to save a trope. There have been times when I have reflected that a Regency novel is going to be dodgy whichever way you slice it. You can’t get away from the fact that the original of this delightful fictionalised polite society was built on the proceeds of slavery and conquest. I think it’s important to recognise that.

But there’s this idea that fiction by or about people who are traditionally underrepresented in Western literature is kind of innately worthy and dull. Things are getting better obviously, but you know how if you are looking for an Asian-American book you’ll get 8 out of 10 that are memoirs of cultural conflict or immigration or whatever, and if you are looking for a LGBT book a lot of them are about coming out and whatnot, and you throw up your hands and say, Can’t I just read about PIRATES?

Don’t get me wrong, I like reading the serious things as well, but PIRATES have their place. I think people constitute themselves through stories and it’s really important to have trashy enjoyable fiction about you, as well as worthy epics. Anyway, that is what postcolonial fluff for booknerds is partly about. It is mostly about having fun!

I probably shouldn’t say too much about sequels to Jade Yeo, because I don’t really know what they will look like yet. But what I’d like to do is write three or four more novellas for self-publication. Each will be romance and revolve around one of her female descendants/relations. I have really only thought about the next one, about her daughter, but I want to use a very similar voice for all of them. I will need to capture that sort of private cackling mood of self-indulgence in which I wrote Jade to do it — but first I’ve got to finish my book!