“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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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!

Galahad at Blandings by P. G. Wodehouse

87-11Tally ho! Great frivolous follies! Exuberant Amusement! The eccentricity of characters, their roles and merits to me have reached another whole new level from other Wodehouse’s books I have read! I think at this stage I may not laugh in stitches but left with a warm feeling and blithely mood with full of imagination of the Castle. Really admired his beautiful English writing, in my lifetime don’t think I would be up to par with this level.

Checklist of characters to uphold Lord Emsworth’s nightmares and get his pince-nez go into jazz dance routine at Blandings in Shropshire

Faces like prunes ran over by a motor bus: Huxley Winkworth (much annoying and irritating than Edwin the boy who does Friday Acts of Kindness from Jeeves and Wooster)

Autocratic chatelaine: The redoubtable Lady Hermione (Apart from Sisters Constance and Dora, this woman is second-to-none according to her determination and practicalities in attempting to get her brother Clarence fixed and sound, waylay her enemies in actions rather than words)

Curious zeal: Butler Beach in replacement of Efficient Baxter in carrying out his justice and crash the impostor in pieces, snorty and smug than ever

Exuberant/Distraited gents (or in other words, the dull-eyed stripling): Wilfred Allsop (also functioned as a victim of fearsome aunt Lady Hermione; poignant in love); Sam Bagshott (also functioned as the impostor (Augusta Whiffle) of the novel, repairing the rift of love); Tipton Plimsoll (blithe chap from America)

Helpmates: Sandy Callender (red-head insidious secretary); Monica Simmons (a new favourite in lieu of George Cyril Wellbeloved); Veronica Wedge

Eyesore: Daphne Winkworth (a sparkler for old romance, ready to be hummed Indian Love Lyrics)

Hero to save the day: Galahad Threepwood, younger brother of 9th Earl of Emsworth, with gleaming spectacles in spellbinding qualities

While checklist is complete, I could go on with my drooling parts of the novel, one of which is the telling of anecdotes about the members belonging to Old Pelican Club by Galahad. He is really an amazing raconteur of tale telling, the anecdotes sprout up here and there in the stories that make the novel much more entertaining provided with the easy-to-guess-long plots:

  • The stakes and game of guessing which member would be the next to die
  • Abdominal belt worn by Chet Tipton (Uncle of Plimsoll)
  • Puff Benger (the member who admits defeat to Indian Love Lyrics)
  • Buffy Struggles (picked up by Galahad on his theories of weakening the system and reaction of dodging by having tea rather than alcohol, surely been mentioned in Summer Lightning already!)
  • Freddie & Eustace in Hedgehog incident, another example of good potation

Another bits are the sardonic dual rivalries, the stitch-ups to one another and interactions between the characters, for example, the mission conducted and plotted by Aunt Hermione to Wilfred the nephew:

“Lady Hermione had often heard of secret societies where plotters plotted plots together, but she wondered if any plotter in any secret society had ever had so much difficulty as she was having in driving into the head of another plotter what he, the first plotter, was trying to plot.”

Wilfred is actually stunned and shocked that his aunt would not be equal without a supporting assistance and accomplice for her required mission, and thinks she wants him to waylay the plank with an axe!

Apart from that, there is an interesting confrontation between Huxley and Wilfred when he caught him drinking. That little brute is the most annoying kid I have ever come across in Wodehouse’s novels.

The conversations between Monica and Tippy are good ones in which he tries to lay all cards on the table and talks turkey to her about Wilfred.

As usual, there are false starts and imbroglios happening in the Castle till the last page but all resolved in merrily sentiments without abrupt endings. The rewarding point is that I could finally recall and get the resonance mentioned in this book concerning the plots of other stories preceding this one, for instance, the short story of Pig-hoo-ey from The World of Blandings. I am in love with Blandings Castle with its residents and guests. It is my future stamping ground for many years to come!

By the way, I really like the covers of Wodehouse’s works by Everyman’s Library, because when you finish the story and close the book, you would be reminded of the plots and the good bits of it! (Exactly true with this one!) However when I was wandering through Waterstones of my recent trip to England last month, the prices of these publications are a bit expensive because they are hardbacks? Never mind! all Wodehouse’s works are stocked and piled up in line on the shelves make the overall effect look so amazing!

The next one by Wodehouse I am going to read is The Tales of Wrykyn and Elsewhere, hope it is fun!

Let me produce my smelling bottle…

dickens_3I am currently reading Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray. It has been an absorbing and interesting journey along the way, and I am up to chapter 13 now. At this moment, I cannot tell you much of the plot but I am most glad to arouse more of my curiosity, eagerness; to sustain my determination and resolution (as I am only up to 1/6 of the novel) so as yours in knowing a bit of anecdotes regarding this book and the author.

First, Vanity Fair has been stuck on my to-be-read bookshelf for a long time; and you may know why I would dig up my interest in picking it up from the bookshelf which has long been ignored without my reach? One of the reasons would be traced to the time when I was reading the Preface of Summer Lightning by P. G. Wodehouse. I was on my bed finishing the story and thought no, it’s not how I ended with this book, I have to read the introduction; and it didn’t disappoint me. It is one of the most wonderful and beautiful prefaces I have ever read. It gives out so much insight; but most of all the captivating bit to me is Plum’s sudden whim on the title of this book:

A word about the title: It is related of Thackeray that, hitting upon Vanity Fair after retiring to rest one night, he leaped out of bed and ran seven times round the room, shouting at the top of his voice. Oddly enough, I behaved in exactly the same way when I thought of Summer Lightning. I recognized it immediately as the ideal title for a novel. My exuberance has been a little diminished since by the discovery that I am not the only one who thinks highly of it.

Well, you see then!

Secondly, another muse would be a biography concerning the secret affair of Dickens named The Invisible Woman by Claire Tomalin. In this non-fiction, Tomalin actually mentions Thackeray quite a number of times along the pages. She states that Nelly Ternan “expressed a particular dislike for this novel (Vanity Fair)” due to the profound knowledge and personalities on stage actresses portrayed by Thackeray. Oh Vanity Fair! Dancing, Singing and Mimicking are the talents of the little girl Becky Sharp does to perform in front of  her audience to win their hearts and to climb up the social ladder. Thackeray also emphasized the independence and enhancement of Miss Sharp that she had developed since a very small age to acquire the skills in order to impress the others. Thackeray described vividly of the countenance of Becky Sharp underlying her beauty, humor and sexual attractiveness, and that were often the personalities that the audience had at that time as the first impression from them on stage. In this case, it is clear that Nelly would not read aloud Vanity Fair to the public to rub herself in as well as the negative side of the theatrical world. (p.6-7)

Apart from that, The Invisible Woman by Claire Tomalin also describes the knowledge of Thackeray in the secret affair of Dickens, and his sympathy and friendship towards Catherine Dickens after the separation of both the married couple. When asked on his opinion of the affair as well as Dickens’ separation, Thackeray replied, “No says I no such thing – it’s with an actress.” (p.8) Provided that his reply and the argument of Garrick Club, he and Dickens fell out with each other quite a while. However, no matter how much difference and discrepancy the social classes they belonged to in childhood and other moral values as such; their 28-year of friendship was not undermined in the end. Dickens actually wrote an obituary on Cornhill Magazine in 1864 in remembrance of Thackeray:

when we fell upon these topics, it was never very gravely, and I have a lively image of him in my mind, twisting both his hands in his hair, and stamping about, laughing, to make an end of the discussion.

and that Thackeray could successfully produce such refined characters and having the ability to tackle the human nature in subtleness.

Moreover I find out that he did the illustration of Pickwick Papers as well as his own novel Vanity Fair, I am very impressed indeed.

thackeray

So here you go, sustaining my mood of reading Vanity Fair (finger-crossed I can make it to the end)!

I’ll see you soon m’lord…

EAAGALFinished The World of Blandings and the short stories therein: The Custody of the Pumpkin, Lord Emsworth Acts for the Best, and Pig-Hoo-o-o-o-ey! Love all the three and the last one stands out as my favourite. Lord Emsworth Acts for the Best is also full of silly jokes; the scenario by Freddie is also interesting composition. I am as stunned as the guv’nor when the script involves a black jaguar.

However my brain cannot accommodate too many distrait prunes at one go as there are, I think, so many similar “spirited escapades” to get them digested. I have be granted a leave from Plum for now. But here below is my favourite paasage from  Pig-Hoo-o-o-o-ey. So beautifully declared by James Belford:

“You need a voice that has been trained on the open prairie and that has gathered richness and strength from competing with tornadoes.

You need a manly, sunburned, wind-scorched voice with a suggestion in it of the crackling of corn whisks and whisper of evening breezes in the fodder.”

Love Blandings Castle. Definitely will look in on Lord Emsworth and the Empress soon!