The day was so warm, so fair, so magically a thing of sunshine and blue skies and bird song that anyone acquainted with Clarence, ninth Earl of Emsworth, and aware of his liking for fine weather, would have pictured him going about the place on this summer morning with a beaming smile and an uplifted heart Right here is probably the best quote that explains the allure of Wodehouse, his almost guaranteed uplifting effect on the spirits of even the weariest reader, the iddylic setting that made Evelyn Waugh comment The gardens of Blandings Castle are that original garden from which we are all exiled This is not my first visit here, and no matter how ironic is the author s introduction to this new volume, I do hope I will find the time to read the rest of the Saga If there is a cure, I don t wanna know about itExcept for the tendency to write articles about the Modern Girl and allow his side whiskers to grow, there is nothing an author to day has to guard himself againstcarefully than the Saga habit The least slackening of vigilance and the thing has gripped him He writes a story Another story dealing with the same characters occurs to him, and he writes that He feels that just onewon t hurt him, and he writes a third And before he knows where he is, he is down with a Saga, and no cure in sight Before we begin, let s note that here we have two separate collections of short stories instead of a single novel I prefer the longer form myself, but until I get my hands on one, these short forays will do Wodehouse is oncespot on in the introThe stories in the first part of the book represent what I may term the short snort in between the solid orgies From time to time I would feel the Blandings Castle craving creeping over me, but I had the manhood to content myself with a small dose So, let the summer sunshine in and begin the lecture The Custody of the Pumpkin is a fine piece of history to re familiarize the reader with the main actors and with the usual plot of love triumphing over adversity We will not meet The Empress of Blandings yet, because the pride of the garden for now is a prize pumpkinThe ninth Earl of Emsworth was a fluffy minded and amiable old gentleman with a fondness for new toys The toy in question is a telescope that the Lord uses to survey his domain from a tower of his castle Unfortunately, the instrument also reveals his son, the Hon Freddie Threepwood kissing a girl in a distant meadow Further inquiries reveal she is the niece of the head gardener, Angus McAllister, that guy with the heavy accent and inflated sense of his own importance The ensuing row and the hasty departure of the Scotsman to London puts in grave danger the future growth of the pumpkin What is Lord Emsworth to do Lord Emsworth Acts for the Best is a sequel of sorts to the first story, in that it continues with the romance of Freddie and his new American wife Back in London to sell a Hollywood script, Freddie is in trouble from his jealous consort and appeals to his father for help The good intentioned but clueless Lord Emsworth gets attacked by a savage Pekinese dog, but isscared to recognize himself in the features of his good for nothing son All s well that ends well Pig hoo o o o ey marks the return on the premises of the Empress of Blandings, with the chorus of worries about her prospects for winning the annual Shropshire Agricultural Festival When her main handler is sent to prison for drunk and disorderly behaviour, the Lord and his friends must learn how Americans call the pigs to feed in Kentucky, helping a couple of young people in love as a bonusShe resembled a captive balloon with ears and a tail, and was as nearly circular as a pig can be without burstingCompany for Gertrude is less about pigs andabout the Modern Girl, with Lord Emsworth harassed by a niece sent down to the Castle to recover from an unlucky Love affairThe family seem to look on the place as a sort of Bastille Whenever the young of the species make a floater like falling in love with the wrong man, they are always shot off to Blandings to recover One of the chief drawbacks to entertaining in your home a girl who has been crossed in love is that she is extremely apt to go about the place doing good All that life holds for her now is the opportunity of being kind to others, and she intends to be kind if it chokes them The cure is sometimespainful than the illness, especially when the solution comes from the Hon Freddie Threepwood, who sends down Beefy Bingham Bingham, who is in love with Gertrude, comes disguised as Mr Popjoy and tries to be helpful, but mostly convinces the Lord that he is as crazy as a bat Hijinks follow The Go Getter continues with the same cast of characters as the previous story, with the addition of a Crooning Tenor as a rival for Bingham in the graces of Gertrude and withefforts from Freddie to sell his American brand of dog biscuits Wodehouse underlines once again the theory that even the Modern Girl prefers a man of strength and determination over one singing about moonlight and nightingales Lord Emsworth and the Girlfriend is my favorite piece in the first half of the collection that s where my opening quote comes from A perfect summer day is ruined for Lord Emsworth by the insistence of his sister that he puts on formal clothes, including a top hat, and that he gives a speech in front of the neighbours gathered for the annual picnic at the Castle In addition, Angus McAllister wants to put gravel on his yew alley The Horror Clarence is saved by an unlikely young heroine, a Cockney girl named Gladys, who reminds him what are the most important things in life and helps him find the strength to confront both his sister and his head gardener Excelent closing to the Blandings visit Now, lets go Elsewhere for a glimpse at the secret history of Hollywood Much as I like Blandings Castle, I must confess that I loved the second half of the collection better and I couldn t stop laughing as the unflappable Mr Mulliner entertained his bar room audience with outrageous tales from the dream factory Mr Potter Takes a Rest Cure is a transition piece form London to Hollywood by a way of a New York publicist, visiting England for a bit of delightful old world peace He finds himself instead pulled between Lady Wickam, his host with literary aspirations, and Clifford Gandle, a young man with political aspirations Mr Potter s sees a ray of hope entering the summer gardenShe was a boyish looking girl, slim and graceful, and the read hair on her bare head glowed pleasingly in the sun Miss Roberta Wickam is thoughsimilar to the snake in the grass than to a sunny angel, well capable of taking care of her own well being and not adverse to a little lying and cheating to get her own way The ensuing troubles put Mr Potter s recovery in dire straits, but they are good for a laugh or three Monkey Business is my first encounter with Mr Mulliner as he tries to impress his pub audience with his insider knowledge of HollywoodMr Mulliner smiled gently Strange, he said, how even in these orderly civilized days women still worship heroism in the male Offer them wealth, brains, looks, amiability, skill at card tricks or at playing the ukulele unless these are accompanied by physical courage they will turn away in scorn This is a recurrent theme in the Wodehouse opus, but never before has Love been demonstrated with the help of a gorilla Yet this is how the timid young man Montrose Mulliner is asked to demonstrate his devotion to his darling Rosalie Beamish, an aspiring actress He tries to wiggle out of his predicament by claiming the higher moral ground, but the lady will have none of itSpeaking for myself, said Montrose, there is nothing I should enjoythan a quiet wedding in a gorilla s cage But has one the right to pander to the morbid taste of a sensation avid public Wodehouse pokes great fun at the American media thirst for sensational headlines and cheap fame, but he reserves some arrows for producers, the press and even for fellow scriptwriters and novelists who claim to be highbrowI have a tender heart said Mr Mulliner , and I dislike to dwell on the spectacle of a human being groaning under the iron heel of Fate Such morbid gloating, I consider, is better left to the Russians Give me a good comedy any day, and leave those Russians to the critics and angsty intellectuals Theimprobable the outcome, the harder the laughter The Nodder continues with the expose of the ridiculous Hollywood mentality, as another young man falls in love but is ignored because he has a low status To illustrate this we go back to the Perfecto Zizzbaum Motion Picture Corporation of Hollywood and to its president, Mr Schellenhamer, who steers his ship with an iron hand and with the help of certain specialized employeesIt is not easy to explain to the lay mind the extremely intricate ramifications of the personnel of a Hollywood motion picture organization Putting it as briefly as possible, a Nodder is something like a Yes Man, only lower in the social scale Young Wilmot Mulliner is paid by the organization to nod at the wise words of its Leader, while his love interest, Miss Mabel Potter, is the private secretary of the President, Mr Schnellenhamer So you can see why their love is not meant to be Yet, the secret song of the cuckoo and a few other secrets of the company involving midgets might provide a solution The Juice of an Orange is a sequel to the love affair of Wilmot and Mabel, because even happy endings are not forever in HollywoodMany a girl has fallen into a man s arms, said Mr Mulliner gravely, only to wriggle out of them at a later date Wilmot Mulliner may have had his moment of heroism, but soon enough his love starts comparing him to a cold asparagus back boned worm It s a cruel world out there, especially when you tell your boss that you will gladly take a cut in your salary Few women would endure such spineless behaviourDon t dream of cutting your salary, Chief, he urged You re worth every cent of it Besides, reflect If you reduce your salary, it will cause alarm People will go about saying that things must be in a bad way It is your duty to the community to be a man and bite the bullet and, no matter how much it may irk you, to stick to your eight hundred thousand dollar a year like glue It s hard not have a tinge of bitterness reading today this dialogue written in 1933 and seeing how little things have changed at the highest levels of management, but in the world of P G Wodehouse there is still hope for Wilmot, even if his first reaction is to fall into depression and into an eating disorderNo man, however gifted his gastric juices, can go on indefinitely brooding over a lost love and sailing into the starchy foods simultaneously The cure recommended is the glass of orange juice from the title, but the effects are all out of proportion with the usually amiable Wilmot Still funny as hell Especially when Mr Schnellenhamer tries to find words that just miss him by a letter or two aiming for sardonic by way of cynical, snickle, Sardinia, sardines and touching down on sardinical The Rise of Minna Nordstrom is focused on the same Perfecto Zizzbaum company, with a plot revolving around the problem of finding good servants in Hollywood and giving a party in the time of the ProhibitionWhat, she demanded passionately at length, is the matter with all you movie magnates Have you no hearts Have you no compassion No sympathy No understanding Do the ambitions of the struggling mean nothing to you No, replied Mr Schnellenhamer in answer to all five questions Nevermind, a woman of spirit and courage will always find a way to trick these damn movie moguls The Castaways is the last story of the book and I would call it Kafkaesque, if I could stop laughing for a minute or two The absurdity of kidnapping strangers from the street and locking them up to work as script doctors may have something to do with Mr Wodehouse own experiences in Hollywood, and evento do with Mr Mulliner s tendency to twist facts in order to impress his fellow drinkers in the pub Nevertheless, it has panache, and it has one of the most memorable love scenes never put on the silver screen I thinkAnd, seeing her weeping there, Bullstrode could restrain himself no longer Something snapped in him It was his collar stud His neck, normally a fifteen and a eight, had suddenly swelled under the pressure of uncontrollable emotion into a large seventeen For an instant he stood gurgling wordlessly like a bull pup choking over a chicken bone then, darting forward, he clasped her in his arms and began to murmur all those words of love which until now he had kept pent up in his heart I believe Hollywood is the poorer for not embracing Mr Wodehousefondly His dialogue, his screwball plots and the timing of his jokes are some of the best in the genre.
As for me, I will continue with the Sagas, both Blandings and Jeeves, and hopefully I will even meet mt Mulliner again over a hot Scotch and lemon.
Here Are A Dozen Stories To Delight All Wodehouse AddictsA Crooning Tenor Is Attempting To Captivate The Affections Of The Rev Rupert Bingham S Fiancee, Lord Emsworth Is Striving To Remove A Pumpkin Shaped Blot On The Family Escutcheon, The Hon Freddie Threepwood Is Making A Last Ditch Attempt To Convert Lady Alcester To The Beneficial Quality Of Donaldson S Dog Joy, And In The Bar Parlor Of The Anglers Rest, Mr Mulliner Fascinates Everyone With The Secret History Of Old Hollywood It s a long time since I have read a Wodehouse book afresh I have finished them all long back so I have to do with re reads This was also one, but since there was thirty five year gap between my previous perusal during my college days and this, most of the stories were forgotten and came across as fresh.
Of the dozen stories in this volume, half are dedicated to Blandings Castle and its vacuous peer, Lord Emsworth attended by his ever faithful butler Beach, the redoubtable head gardener Angus MacAllister, his pig man Cyril Wellbeloved, his prize pig the Empress of Blandings and to the chagrin of the easy going peer his gorgon of a sister Lady Constance Keeble and the blot on his sunshine, his younger son the Hon Freddie Threepwood For the earl is not fond of his younger progeny in this matter, he is singularly unlike the codfish.
Unlike the male codfish, which, suddenly finding itself the parent of three million five hundred thousand little codfish, cheerfully resolves to love them all, the British aristocracy is apt to look with a somewhat jaundiced eye on its younger sons And Freddie Threepwood was one of those younger sons who rather invite the jaundiced eye.
In the opening story, that jaundiced eye falls on the young aristocrat in close embrace with an unsuitable female the cousin of the head gardener, no less By the time the affair is satisfactorily settled, Emsworth is called in to heal the rift between his son and his fiance, in a hotel suit infested with snapping toy dogs and gun wielding females Evenirritating is the changed Freddie, the go getter marketing executive of Donaldson s Dog Joy biscuits No wonder we find the earl musing thus Years before, when a boy, and romantic as most boys are, his lordship had sometimes regretted that the Emsworths, though an ancient clan, did not possess a Family Curse How little had he suspected that he was shortly about to become the father of it.
No sooner than he had managed in getting rid of Freddie, Lord Emsworth is tasked with acting as jailer to young nieces who have been dumped into his home to save them from unsuitable alliances by his formidable sisters also, he is forced to appear in a stiff collar at a school fete arranged in his grounds One could almost feel that this is some kind of Russian tragedy, with the inexorable hand of fate grinding the poor souls beneath its iron heel But as with any Wodehouse tale, everything works out in the end, with God in his heaven and everything right with the world Of the remaining six, one is about Bobbie Wickham, the flighty young girl whom Jeeves thought entirely unsuitable for Bertie Wooster and was proven right, as usual Bobbie is being compelled by her mother, the forceful Lady Wickham, to marry the unspeakable Clifford Gandle however, she has other plans and manages to thwart authority in her own typically idiosyncratic way.
The other five are narrated by that gentleman of the bar parlour of Angler s Rest, the redoubtable Mr Mulliner As usual, he speaks with complete honesty about the escapades of his nephews and cousins, this time in Hollywood And as one can expect with the dream city, everything is a bit larger than life We have weddings proposed in gorilla cages child stars who are actually midgets temperamental lady stars out to brain people with roman swords, people virtually imprisoned to write nonexistent scripts, and the strangest of them all, the Yes Men and the Nodders.
It is not easy to explain to the lay mind the extremely intricate ramifications of the personnel of a Hollywood motion picture organization Putting it as briefly as possible, a Nodder is something like a Yes Man, only lower in the social scale A Yes Man s duty is to attend conferences and say Yes A Nodder s, as the name implies, is to nod The chief executive throws out some statement of opinion, and looks about him expectantly This is the cue for the senior Yes Man to say yes He is followed, in order of precedence, by the second Yes Man or Vice Yesser, as he is sometimes called and the junior Yes Man Only when all the Yes Men have yessed, do the Nodders begin to function They nod.
In fact, business as usual in Hollywood It s amazing how Wodehouse can keep on spinning the same kind of tale without inciting even an iota of boredom in his reading public My personal opinion is that it is his consummate mastery over the English language that does it The following passage serves to illustrate how his prose takes on the wings of poesy even while describing something as mundane as a pig at the feeding trough.
They looked at him, awed Slowly, fading across hill and dale, the vast bellow died away And suddenly, as it died, another, softer sound succeeded it A sort of gulpy, gurgly, plobby, squishy, wofflesome sound, like a thousand eager men drinking soup in a foreign restaurant And, as he heard it, Lord Emsworth uttered a cry of rapture.
The Empress was feeding.
Wodehouse s books are as good as Jeeves s pick me ups to raise one from the dumps.
Not as good as Jeeves Wooster, but the narration was good and they did make me laugh out loud The last two stories, without Lord Emsworth co.
, did not hold my attention and I skipped them They might be better on paper, but the narrator s American accented voices were unpleasant to listen to.
The title is a bit of a misnomer The first half of the book indeed is all about the delightful Blandings Castle and its crazy gang But the second half covers stories from the Mr Mulliner saga To be honest, while I adore the Blandings stories, I can t say the same for Mr Mulliner The Mulliner cast simply doesn t have the same charm for me.
The Custody of the Pumpkin This is a delightful story of a stubborn gardener matching wills with Lord Emsworth Also Freddie Threepwood gets married Loved this one 5 starsLord Emsworth Acts for the Best Lord Emsworth helps out his younger son in resolving his marital problems Probably would have been best if he hadn t 4 starsPig hoo o o o ey We meet the Empress for the first time ever I have loved this gorgeous animal since childhood Lord Emsworth also learns how to properly talk to his piggy 5 starsCompany for Gertrude This story follows the typical Blandings formula Emsworth s niece gets sent to Blandings because she loves the wrong person Fate plays its role, as does Freddie Threepwood 5 starsThe Go Getter Poor Freddie tries to sell dog biscuits to his aunt but doesn t appear to be having much success But a younger son can t sit on his laurels he has to pull up his pants and get in some action 5 starsLord Emsworth and the Girlfriend This is a rather sweet story where Lord Emsworth makes friends with a little girl from the village and finds courage 4 starsMr Potter Takes a Rest Cure Pure bonkers Roberta Wickham is introduced here Her mother wants her to marry a man she doesn t want to Her way of getting rid of him is well, let s just say creative 5 starsMonkey Business The Mulliner stories are all set in Hollywood In this one, Monrose Mulliner is in love with a woman who wants to get married in the gorilla cage It s fun but I didn t really enjoy this one Also was a huge disappointment seeing these stories right after the delightful Blandings sagas 2 starsThe Nodder Another Mulliner story this time Wilmot Mulliner is in love with a woman who thinks he is chicken His job is to nod at the director s speeches, and he does it admirably well But would any woman of spirit marry such a man 2 starsThe Juice of an Orange This story was slightly better than the previous two Mulliner is put on a diet which changes his entire character Just drinking orange juice or the juice of an orange is quite potent 4 starsThe Rise of Minna Nordstrorm I think this was my favourite of all the Mulliner stories How do popular actresses get made in Hollywood read and find out 5 starsThe Castaways Mulliner is enslaved into writing scripts, which plays havoc with his love life 2 stars It would probably be considered cheating to mark this as read because I haven t read any of the Elsewhere stories it s time to send this book on to other locations That said, couldn t we all use some Wodehouse at the end of the day Or should I say, couldn t all of us who can fully appreciate Wodehouse use some at the end of the day B asked me what I was chortling about, but when I read him some of the real choice bits gyrating dog, I am looking at you particularly , he looked at me like I was touched But never mind him I will always have a warm spot in my heart for a certain dreamy peer all the other inmates of this particular stately home in England Beach understood If he was surprised at the presence of a the younger son of the house in the amber drawing room with a sack of rats in his hand, he gave no indication of the fact With a murmured apology, he secured the sack and started to withdraw It was not, strictly speaking, his place to carry rats, but a good butler is always ready to give and take Only so can the amenities of a large country house be preserved Gazing at him, she was reminded of the heroes of old And few could have denied that he made a strangely impressive figure, this large young man, standing there with bulging eyes a gyrating dog in each hand And finally, Nature has made some men quicker thinkers than others Lord Emsworth s was one of those leisurely brains Beautiful.
If it happened at Blandings Castle, it s priceless.
Did I enjoy Blandings Castle Oh I say, rather I ve been to Blandings before, usually with Uncle Fred, but this is the first time I ve felt like a resident of the asylum Though similar to say a Totleigh Towers of the Jeeves Wooster world, Blandings nonetheless has its own set of rules, its own cast of loons Lord Emsworth, aka Clarence Threepwood, 9th Earl of Emsworth is the principle character and a good ol bean In some stories he comes off as a doddering old Methuselah, but apparently he s meant to be only in his 60s Irregardless of whatever story you re reading, Emsworth has a fairly one track mind, he worries over his prize pig, the Empress of Blandings If it s not the pig, then it s a pumpkin, but mainly it s the pig Hardships and annoyances are tossed at him from every corner, yet he always keeps his eyes on the prizepig.
Some of the hardships and annoyances include his constantly pestering sister Lady Constance Keeble, his good for nothing young son Freddy, his gravelly souled gardner Angus McAllister, and bank holidays in August When Emsworth and his pig and pumpkin are not the focal point of the story, the topic almost inevitably is love Some young couple, or rather I should say, some young trio is always falling in and out of love in Wodehouse s stories Just as often as not, the young lovers are running from engagements as they are running to them I can t count the number of times I ve read about Bertie Wooster making a near escape from the alter Rounding out the collection of tales in Blandings Castle, nearly half the book to beprecise, are stories centered around the Hollywood movie scene of the early days Wodehouse wrote a film script or two and committed his experiences to paper in the form of fictional, wacky misadventures Some good satirical barbs at the industry provide a few laughs However, good as these stories are, I can t help but feel that they are a tack on to pad out the page total to make up a full book That said, it s a very enjoyable book Addendum For Your Viewing Pleasure I almost forgot, did you know there s a BBC tv series based on the Blandings books I haven t seen it yet, but it s a comin via the Netflix I m pretty excited, because it stars some actors from the Harry Potter movies as well as Jennifer Saunders of Ab Fab I am however tempering my excitement, knowing full well that it will probably be flawed as any Wodehouse adapted story for the screen has been Without his witty narration, it just isn t the same But, we ll see The Custody of the Pumpkin It seems Lord Emsworth was a pumpkin enthusiast before he acquired his pig fixation He fires the groundskeeper because Freddie Threepwood s in love with a cousin of his Soon Emsworth fears for his pumpkin s health and goes to London to re hire McAllister Hilarity ensues The Earl is in all his absent minded glory in this one Have that cats gotten at it Lord Emsworth Acts for the Best Freddie and his wife have a spat and Freddie ends up back in London The ninth Earl initiall decides not to intervene but does so when it dawns on him that Freddie intends to return to Blandings if his marriage fails Couple this with a Jeeves eque side plot where Beach is thinking about quitting because Emsworth grew a beard and there you have it.
Pig Hoo o o o ey The Empress of Blandings quits eating after her trainer ends up in the jug Angela, Emsworth s niece, breaks off her engagement to cavort with Jimmy Belford Jimmy s what brings the plots together It seems he worked for two years on a farmCompany for Gertrude Gertrude, yet another niece, is staying at Blandngs because her mother doesn t want her marrying Beefy Bingham, a friend of Freddie s Freddie gives Beefy the idea to go to Blandings under another name and ingratiate himself to the ninth Earl so Gertrude s mother will have to give consent, thus continuing the tradition of an imposter in Blandings.
The Go Getter Beefy and Gertrude are on the rocks Gertrude s mooning over Orlo Watkin, a tenor Freddie s trying to get them back together while also trying to sell Donaldson s Dog Joy Freddie s pretty Wooster ish in this one.
Lord Emsworth and the Girlfriend Emsworth in a foul mood over August Bank Holiday and meets a little girl that is a kindred spirit Mr Potter Takes a Rest Cure Bobbie Wickham faces an unwanted engagement to Clifford Gandle until she manages to convince Gandle and J.
H Potter that one another are crazy Classic Wodehouse.
Monkey Business Montrose Mulliner s fiancee has him cowed and ditches him for a big game hunter until an ape goes on the rampage.