In an otherwise unrelated article by Christopher Hitchens, the erstwhile brave contrarian and now a pathetic neocon prevaricator, I came across this statement:
George Galloway Is Gruesome, Not Gorgeous
By Christopher Hitchens
My old friend and frequent critic Geoffrey Wheatcroft once tried to define a moment of perfect contentment and came up with the idea of opening a vintage wine while settling down to read an undiscovered work by P.G. Wodehouse. ...........
This brought back memories of an interesting, chance encounter aboard a London to Houston flight in the autumn of 1999 and the uncommon pleasure of reading P.G. Wodehouse. The gentleman sitting next to me on the plane was an older English man of great wit and charm. Very early in our conversation I found out that he was a member of the P.G. Wodehouse Society and was traveling to a Wodehouse conference in Houston. Wodehouse in Houston! I am a huge Wodehouse fan, as are many among my friends and family. But I had not until then met a single Houstonian, including my book club friends, who had read him. My co-passenger, J.F, then revealed that apart from being a die-hard fan, he was also a researcher and publisher of rare and undiscovered writings of Wodehouse. Upon learning of my own devotion to the author, he presented me with a book by P.G. Wodehouse, "A Man of Means", published in 1991, of which I knew nothing. He had discovered this little known work (first published in the Strand magazine in 1914) among Wodehouse's early manuscripts and obscure magazine publications. J.F. and his friends published the stories (with the original accompanying illustrations) in the form of a brand new book through his own publishing company, Porpoise Books in Maidenhead, England. I was suddenly the proud owner of an "undiscovered" work of Wodehouse! Upon reaching home, I proceeded to enjoy it with relish (without the accompanying vintage wine, recommended by Hitchens' friend). I own several books by Wodehouse published by larger, better known publishers like Penguin Books but this little book, (not Wodehouse's best), is a treasure among them because of the totally unexpected way in which I came to own it.
Reading Wodehouse is a bit like eating potato chips - you can't stop after just a few, highly addictive when you begin to enjoy the process and once you are finished, there is nothing substantive you can say about the experience except a sense of pure, silly satisfaction. Wodehouse was the unOrwell - able to transform the bleak and the solemn to jolly and cheerfully banal. Fans of Wodehouse will understand what I am talking about and those who haven't tried him, should find out. Although Jeeves and Bertie Wooster are the better known Wodehouse characters, to the uninitiated I recommend starting with the capers of Psmith ("The p is silent, as in phthisis, psychic and ptarmigan"), a lively and enterprising young man who always has a scheme (mostly for making money) and invariably fails, with hilariously disastrous results.
The main character Roland Bleke in A Man of Means, the "rare" Wodehouse I mention above, has the opposite fate - he does not want money but wealth pursues him relentlessly. I think the author tried Bleke as a model for a long running theme, found him unsatisfactory, reversed the circumstances and struck gold with the perennially penniless Psmith.