“Crazy days and reckless nights, limousines and bright spotlights…”

Title from Ringo Starr – Never Without You (song)

As the Hon. Galahad resumed his stroll, setting a course for the sun-bathed terrace, his amiable face was wrinkled with lines of deep thought. The poignant story to which he had been listening had stirred him profoundly. It seemed to him that Fate, not for the first time in his relations with the younger generation, had cast him in the role of God from the Machine.
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Full Moon is again another farce which deals with Fate in a convoluted yet rollicking way; but some elements of the plot set my reading experience apart from other “hoosegow” stories. Although Freddie Threepwood is still the Nature’s prune in Guv’nor’s and aunts’ sore perspectives, he is now an junior vice-president post in Donaldson’s Inc. to promote the interests of Donaldson’s dog biscuits around the reclusive country houses in England after his nuptial ties to an American tycoon’s daughter. Despite the supposedly formulaic plot that it is Uncle Gally who saves the day, Freddie’s alacrity in nosing other people’s businesses with his silver-tongued eloquence are put into good use, and it is a joyful consolation for me to view his accelerating confidence and “potential growth” in Freddie as if reading a coming-of-age novel. “It was not often that the Hon. Galahad found himself commending the shrewdness and intelligence of a nephew whom from infancy he had always looked upon as half-witted, but he did so now…” (p. 162) One day Freddie would be fruitfully reminiscing his reckless youth like Uncle Gally.

The Hon. Galahad snorted sharply. Himself a bachelor, he was unable to understand and sympathize with what seemed to him a nephew’s contemptible pusillanimity. There is often this unbridgable gulf between the outlook of single and married men.

There are characters such as Colonel Wedge, Freddie Threepwood as the “docile” husbands under the “tyrannical governance” of Lady Hermione and Aggie, with Tipton Plimsoll the American millionaire and Bill Lister the heavyweight champion as the most ever faithful lovers to Veronica Wedge and Prudence. Women are once again depicted as powerful opponents to masculinity in the aspect of love and matrimony. Quoting what Freddie says – “I love her with a devotion which defies human speech, but if you were to place before me the alternatives of disregarding her lightest behest and walking up to a traffic cop and socking him on the maxillary bone, you would find me choosing the cop every time. And it’s no good calling me a bally serf.” (p. 211) Indeed, the imagination of analogy and juxtaposition regarding aspects of human relationships that Wodehouse draws has a very sweetening and lyrical tone to readers’ ears and inspiring to the minds. Uncle Galahad, of course, is the admirable hero, but young generations are thrown into limelight, and he functions as the strategic guardian who has the warm heart to restore perfect endings of the light-hearted and good-natured lovers back on the right track.

In this case of Full Moon, it scores ten out of ten, due to the fact that the avuncular’s tone concerning different aspects of humanity and mentality is not expressed by the Fathers, Uncles, and Butlers, but through the bright, young, clever, but sometimes unscrupulous, reckless, distrait, downcast and quixotic striplings, and they are the ones continuing to win and melt our hearts.

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The Art of Theft in The Little Nugget

953237Perhaps it might sound ridiculous that Wodehouse makes motives of “thefts” sound all the more fun, beautiful  and reasonable! I like a sparkling of camouflage and disguises with a twinge of “fate”, so on an aesthetic level, Wodehouse’s works of contrivances and plots reach full marks on the scale of ten; on the rational ground, except the unintentional cases of Egyptian scarab (Something Fresh) and Beach’s pocket watch (Galahad at Blandings), dealing with the stealing of Empress of Blandings in Summer Lightning and Service with a Smile, or Lady Constance’s necklace in Leave it to Psmith…many of which are all committed for solicitous considerations of Lord Emsworth’s sporadic absent-mindedness, and celebration of human irrationality called “love” that befalls on those exuberant youths.

The Little Nugget is a very satisfactory read, Wodehouse yet again crochets a splendid theft. It is a plot of vengeance and kidnapping of an American brat called Ogden Ford (the only disturbance of this novel is that I fretted and appalled by peals of scream this Little Nugget had caused, and then reminiscing the docility of Empress of Blandings), which stretches in most hospitable roof within and without an English Preparatory school called Sanstead House erected in the suburbs. Normally three characters at most would play crook-in-a-cloak game in his novels; this time there is an affable character pulling off more than one disguises of identities as an adventitious occurrence and ingenious plan! As to the reason of theft, it is altruistic than ever, especially when it is done not by an amateur but in the hands of a professional’s,

  • “In a sense, you might call me a human benefactor. I teach parents to appreciate their children. You know what parents are. Father gets caught short in steel rails one morning. When he reaches home, what does he do? He eases his mind by snapping at little Willie. Mrs Van First-Family forgets to invite mother to her freak-dinner. What happens? Mother takes it out of William. They love him, maybe, but they are too used to him. They do not realize all he is to them. And then, one afternoon, he disappears. The agony! The remorse! (…)”

Apart from the dark deeds and illicit dealings, The Little Nugget teems with wondrous figurative expressions and inimitable depictions of daily circumstances, which I think they resonance so much in mine. Perhaps it is not the best solution to jot them all down in this post, because it definitely will not emulate the beauty of copying them down in my notebook. In this case, I’ll end this post here to leave the others intrigued and resort to get them a copy of The Little Nugget on the shelf. Enjoy! 🙂

Today’s Quote

(Lord Ickenham, aka Uncle Fred, having conversation with Mr. James Schoonmaker on the subject of lovelorn Lady Constance)

But that way she has of drawing her breath in sharply and looking starry-eyed whenever your name is mentioned is enough to show me how things stand. The impression I received was of a woman wailing for her demon lover. Well, perhaps not actually wailing, but making quite a production number of it. I tell you I’ve seen her clench her hands till the knuckles stood out white under the strain, just because your name happened to come up in the course of conversation. I’m convinced that if you were to try the Ickenham system, you couldn’t fail.

(Service with a Smile, P. G. Wodehouse)

Service with a Smile by P. G. Wodehouse (Very Spiritual Indeed!)

9780099513995“It was the practice of Lord Ickenharm, when visiting a country house to look about him, before doing anything else, for a hammock to which he could withdraw after breakfast and lie thinking in deep thoughts. Though, like Abou ben Adhem (from Leigh Hunt) a man who loved his fellow men, he made it an invariable rule to avoid them after the morning meal with an iron firmness, for at that delectable hour he wished to be alone to meditate.”

This Blandings book is my first encounter with Uncle Fred (the Earl of Ickenharm) for I still haven’t got myself a copy of Uncle Fred in the Springtime. Service with a Smile contains pocketful of lies and, reading the first page of the biographical profile on Wodehouse, I surmise he was in his 80 odd years, still so levelheaded to the utmost degree, and every lie and conspiracy is invincible and convoluted indeed. If I were Duke of Dunstable, Lady Constance, Lord Emsworth, Lord Tilbury, and Archibald, every detail Uncle Fred contrives to compose would I be so gullible.

For Uncle Fred has concocted and schemed many whirlwind details in his head, not fewer then twice has his guardian angel appeared to him when lying on the hammock,

  • “There had been a moment when his guardian angel, who liked him to draw the line somewhere, had shown a disposition to become critical of his recent activities, whispering in his ear that he ought not to have…”
  • “He nestled into the vacated hammock, and was in the process of explaining to his guardian angel, who had once more become critical, that there is no harm in deviating from the truth a little…”

Apart from that, I found there are bountiful bits of fate concerned here, but somewhat every character is getting devout and spiritual in the novel as well! As you could see from the title, “Service with a Smile”, says a lot already! First of all, never have I realised Lord Emsworth is a member of Freemason (stated by his grandson George), though he somehow attacked the Church Lads when agitated by their mischievous deeds; secondly Duke of Dunstable, curious as a cat and irritable like Edwin the boy scout, has himself resonated and linked to the idea of Providence (p. 191) rather than fate for his fortune and luck; thirdly, the rich infiltration of Church Lads sprawling and in a tent of the Blandings Castle (messuage of Lord Emsworth); last but not least, another character named Bill Bailey (incognito Cuthbert Meriweather) is a much respected curate who gives service in Bottleton East (girls in the 19th century would be so inclined with this clergyman with the stature like a military officer),

“A captious critic might have felt on seeing the Rev Cuthbert that it would have been more suitable for one in holy orders to have looked a little less like the logical contender for the world’s heavy-weight championship, but it was impossible to regard his rugged features and bulging shoulders without an immediate feeling of awe.” (one of my favourite lines of the Book 🙂 ! Cuthbert was also name of a saint with historical background as well.)

Apart from that, comparing Archibald’s engagement with polygamy of Brigham Young is quite an innovative one.

In this case, this Blandings book and very enriching and spiritual which exacts my taste, and through it I hope to know some information regarding the motives and religious background of Wodehouse when he was writing this masterpiece in his time. It is interesting when I overlook the farce and miseries each character incurs, and delve into this spiritual world of Wodehouse in Service with a Smile! More highlighting and note jotting on the way, which has sent me to cloud nine already!

Leave It to Psmith by P. G. Wodehouse

32-23I cannot recall saying anything calculated to bring the blush of shame to the cheek of modesty.

I feel such an urge to say that Leave It to Psmith by Wodehouse has undoubtedly the most winding and giddiest plots I have ever read of a Blandings Castle. All those untrammeled possibilities lying before me and I absolutely lose count on the immensity of the crimes as well as innumerable purloiners and impostors who devilishly lurk around the Castle. Although the novels in Blandings Castle always are teeming with blighters and plotters, never up to reading this one have I been aware of some incurring plots and themes that might somehow echoes the memories I have had in reading other novels by others authors (providing the limited stock of books I have read, clearly I know whom and which I am talking about). But I don’t tend to “analyse such sunlit perfection”, I merely read and observe!

  • For an instant she debated with herself the chances of a dash through the darkened hall up the stairs to her room. But the lights might go on again, and she might meet someone, Memories of sensational novels read in the past told her that on occasions such as this people were detained and searched…Suddenly, as she stood there, she found the way, close behind her, lying on its side, was the flower-pot which Psmith had overturned as he came to join her on the terrace wall.

I think this remind me of a big 4 novel by Wilkie Collins’s called The Moonstone. Nothing similar concerning the plots but it is also about the disappearance of the necklace and the veiled mystery each character is endeavouring to bury within! However Lady Constance Keeble’s one is without the curse and somehow makes it no less delightful than any other ones! Apart from that, there are also some resemblances of Wilkie Collins’s works and Wodehouse’s novels, for instance, the skulduggery of prying and swapping identities with different walks of lives in the House…makes them more or less a brain-twisting and spinning stories.

I also like the mentioning of “Fate” throughout the novel.  It is my favourite notion in relation to lives on various insuperable books and fiction, ranging from light or heavy, classical and modern. They all interestingly instill and involve this precious idea within and gets them very thought-provoking indeed. It is just the matter that incomparable Dickens used to be brooding as observed by John Forster,

  • On the coincidences, resemblances, and surprises of Life Dickens liked especially to dwell, and few things moved in fancy so pleasantly. The world, he would say, was so much smaller than we thought it; we were all so connected by fate without knowing it; people supposed to be far apart were so constantly elbowing each other; and to-morrow bore so close a resemblance to nothing half so much as to yesterday.

or Wodehouse,

  • The fact that many writers in their time have commented at some length on the mysterious manner in which Fate is apt to perform its work must not deter us now from a brief survey of this latest manifestation of its ingenious methods…(Chapter 11, Leave it to Psmith)

Compared with Something Fresh (the first Blandings Castle), which in the end there is also an interesting conversation pertaining to the idea of lives and fate,

  • Do you ever get moods when life seems absolutely meaningless? It’s like a badly-constructed story, with all sorts of characters moving in and out who have nothing to do with the plot. And when somebody comes along that you think really has something to do with the plot, he suddenly drops out. After a while you begin to wonder what the story is about, and you feel that it’s about nothing–just a jumble.

Leave It to Psmith culminates the idea into a higher level, from beginning to the end. Although Fate without gainsaying plays a heavy part in all his novels, I find this one amazes me tremendously and feverishly on different characters and occasions. I would not delve on quoting more references, lest I would unveil more plots right away.

Anyhow, it is the most joyous and heart-soothing moment to read this book at any time; and as long as there is Efficient Baxter prowling around I am satisfied. Of course, I am attracted to the charisma of Psmith as well with his likable and eccentric character, and it is always an entertainment to indulge in his seemingly self-loving tirades. After writing this review, I am going to highlight and copy more lines of Leave It to Psmith onto my notebook, for instance, 

  • Lady Constance conveyed the impression that anybody who had the choice between stealing anything from her and stirring up a nest of hornets with a short walking-stick would do well to choose the hornets.

and by the by, I have borrowed Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh from the library, as I think there are still more thoughts to be deluged in with the book after watching the movie. It will be my first read on Evelyn Waugh. Better exhume them soon!

Fie! Fie! Or the Fair Physician (1882) by Wilkie Collins

“I have merely to add (speaking from my own experience) that he is an exceedingly shy man. He is also — according to his own account of it — subject to some extraordinary delusion, which persuades him that he can never marry. My own idea is, that this is a mere excuse; a stupid falsehood invented to palliate his conduct to my sister.”

Charles's impression of his elder brother Wilkie
painted by brother Charles Allston Collins

Read the short story before the day of Wilkie Collins’s birthday. This story, by far, is the most light-hearted one I have ever read by him; it has no concerns of fatality and poignancy certain characters, with a backdrop set in a residency of detached house located in the suburb of England; yet without those classic traits of Wilkie Collins, still comes out as an enjoyable read and putting a crack of smile on one’s face.

It is about a story narrated by Mrs Lois Crossmichael but under the instruction of herself that it is to be revised and edited by Wilkie Collins. Mrs Crossmichael is not the chatelaine of the house, which is occipied by her father and mother, Reverend Skirton and Mrs Skirton, as well as her younger sister Salome Skirton. However, she is the spotlight of the abode aside them, being the autocratic one and taking in charge of the house affairs as possible. Here is the synopsis:

Mr Otto FItzmark, who has just returned to England from America to get back to his family who live in the suburb of London, as well as to visit his next-door neighbour and love interest, Miss Salome Skirton, “a kind of sleeping Venus was Dudu, grey eyes, plentiful hair, bright with the true golden colour”, but hindered by a pure pale complexion, mild smile and weak little chin. However unexpectedly Miss Skirton’s love and promise of marriage is at stake by a girl who was a fair physician attending Otto’s father, named Sophia Pillico (an activist in Woman Movement), “a finely developed young woman, with brown hair and eyes, warm rosy cheeks, dressed to perfection in a style of simplicity”. A connoisseur would have recognised the discrepancy of beauty defined by the two women. Anyway, it is within the officious Mrs Crossmichael’s obligation to protect her sister’s love affair and nuptials by plotting a plan against the cunning fair physician.

After reading the synopsis, does that remind you of an author who famously good at writing farce? I thought of Wodehouse instantly while reading the story:

“I have been carefully watching Sophia and your young man, and I have arrived at the conclusion that his doctor is certainly in love with him. (Haven’t I told you to listen? Then why don’t you let me go on?) I am equally certain, Salome, that he is not in love with her. (Will you listen?) But she flatters his conceit — and many a woman has caught her man in that way. Besides this danger, she has one terrible advantage over you: she is his doctor.”…

” ‘There’s one thing more you must do — provoke his jealousy. The mother of that other young fellow who is dangling after you is just the person you want for the purpose. I heard her ask you to fix a day for visiting them at Windsor…In the language of Miss Pillico, my dear, he wants a stimulant. I know what I am about. Good night.

Still not satisfied? I’ll write out a checklist:

Autocratic chatelaine: Mrs Crossmichael

Rivalry: Sophia Pillico

Feeble / Distraught / Distrait young man: Otto Fitzmark

Mischievous youngsters on eavesdropping: Sulking Young John and Sour Bess

Hero (heroine) to save the day: Mrs Crossmichael

Lord Emsworth-like master of the house good at wool gathering: Old John (Otto’s father)

Tiff-tiff and bickering couple actively involved in the story.

The bit I like the most is of course the epistolary writing by the characters, but not least the plots and mischief of Sophia in trying to postpone Otto’s thought of marrying Salome.

It is a cheeky comical story and rare gem of Wilkie Collins’s work, with obviously the classic trait of underpinning the strength and empowerment of femininity in neglect and expense of male characters. Great read and cornucopia of plots and prying to liven you up! (However not so many delightful metaphors as to Plum’s ones)

Tales of Wrykyn and Elsewhere

17609939IMG_20141223_113248Wodehouse’s earlier works on college short stories consisting of a few public schools. Before reading this book I never realised that there are such terms actually indicating the levels of education preceding sixth form: Lower-fifth, Middle fifth and Upper fifth!

To be honest, I have not read the cricket stories. I never get myself familiarised with sports from childhood. However, the stories on planks played out by fellow classmates, fagging of the lower forms for normal human being and going through adversity against the ministrations of form-, house- and headmasters are enjoyable ones to chew at bedtime! These stories bring out the reminiscence of my reading The Boy by Roald Dahl many years ago – the Great Mouse Plot to the confectionery store proprietor, the nemesis between Dahl and Captain Hardcastle (the bit which I laughed out the most); the friendly Mathematics teacher who likes crosswords and farting in the class; as well as the fagging years in Repton (make me want to re-read the book again!).

As to Tales of Wrykyn and Elsewhere, I like many of them; but there are some short stories and characters which are actually rooted in my mind the most, for example, Ruthless Reginald, The Politeness of Princes, Educating Aubrey, and An International Affair from Wrykyn; St Asterisks’s Rose and Wotsing in playing out parodies on Sherlock Holmes and Watson; the never-ending poignancy of Pillingshot caused by the sudden whim of the  Scott in St Austin’s; and last but not least, Thomas, the boy with angelic expression yet aggressive in mind. But to me I especially like the stories of Locksley, as I think Plum constructed an ingenious plot on the resourcefulness and cleverness of Dunstable and his fellow housemate in the stories A Corner in Lines and The Autograph Hunters.

From this book, you could be immersed in the stories and ploughed it through with fun. You can actually find out how new kids settle themselves fully into the public boy schools without a smack in the face,  junior miscreants endeavour to break the monotony of school life with the hard work, the fun and method to fawn on the masters, the pain of the imposition that teachers set them through including writing Greek numerals for a hundred lines and Greek/Latin translations (square manners are unlikely in most cases).  Happy reading!

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