Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Wodehouse, the oldest member, and I

P. G. Wodehouse is funny. But I don't laugh all the time reading his books. In fact I can easily go a novel and a half with ol' P. G. and I'm mostly just smirking a lot. Nevertheless behind the scenes it's all collecting in me, a drip here, a drip there, and then suddenly in the book they're having a grave discussion over Jeeves's unexpressed dissatisfaction with a purple tie and I'm overcome. The accumulated smirks have created a flood and I am guffawing. Laughter overcomes my respiratory system and I am choking to death, hyperventilating with hysteria until I am collapsed on the floor, tears pouring from my eyes. As it fades enough for a single breath it only rises back up in me, the terrible lunacy. I am pounding the floor weakly, uncontrollably writhing with my fits of laughter. Finally, after ten minutes, I manage to gather myself. Where was I? I read the passage that convulsed me again. I can quietly see that it's mildly amusing, in a distant sort of way. I continue reading on silently for another hundred pages.

So I like P. G. Wodehouse. His tone makes me gleeful, and I recently mentioned here how I am usually trying to copy him without any success or any concern that I'm not successful, as success was never the point. But outside occasional moments of raving hysteria I never made what I felt to be the full connection with P. G. Wodehouse until I stumbled upon his golf stories. A couple months ago I picked up Heart of a Goof. These consist of about half of Wodehouse's golf stories. Oh these are the thing! They revolve around a quiet, lunatic obsession with golf and its virtues much in the way, say, Lord of the Rings revolves around the troubles and virtues of a lovely, half wild land called Middle Earth. The thing that really won me hard in these stories though was the oldest member. Each story involves someone having a hard time with something either on The Links, or tangentially related to The Links, usually all golf and love. The oldest member, a person who seems to be hanging out in the clubhouse at all times, is sort of a shoulder to cry on, mostly because he's the only one around at that moment, and he invariably shares a golf story relevant to the situation at hand.

Now these stories are fantastic, but my favorite part is, as he commences to tell these stories to his troubled visitors, they generally realize they are in for a long account full of implicit advice and they try to make a run for it. But pleading excuses, lack of time, or some other pressing engagement is nothing to the oldest member, who ignores their entreaties and, clutching perhaps the hem of their jacket in a surprisingly powerful grip, he implacably launches off into his germane tale. The victim groans, accepts his fate, and settles in reluctantly for the story.

So humor, a light and brilliant tone, and dazzlingly deft little romantic comedy plots won me over to P. G. Wodehouse, but the oldest member did me in. Finally, out in the world of the arts, I recognized, finally and absolutely, myself. It's all the Ancient Mariner with a twinkle in his eye and something at least halfway from a curse to confidence. As much "I need to say" as "You need to hear what I have to say."

Oh yeah, you need to hear what I have to say.

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