Monday, March 30, 2015

My "Family Tree" - The Douglas Adams Branch - Part 2 - Wodehouse

Michael Salsbury
While reading about Douglas Adams, I learned that one of his favorite authors was P.G. Wodehouse. This places Wodehouse in my author "family tree" also.  I read about Wodehouse earlier this evening and learned some interesting parallels between the two of us:
  • Wodehouse and Adams both wrote items for their school newpapers, as did I.
  • Wodehouse wrote short stories that were later collected to become his novels.  Last year, I began using some of my blogs in much the same way... to write short passages that would become topic or chapters of a finished book.
  • Wodehouse wrote song lyrics, which I dabbled at in high school.
  • Wodehouse had "little interest in politics and world affairs" which is true of me as well.
  • Wodehouse had trouble with plotting in his early works, but later became known for his skill at constructing and developing plots.  I still have trouble with plotting.  It would be good to know what helped Wodehouse develop that skill, apart from simply writing more stories.
  • Wodehouse never had any biological children, but did have a stepdaughter.  I have no biological children but two stepchildren.
Those are the only similarities I found between the two of us.

One thing I found interesting about Wodehouse was how he seemed to poke fun at his critics throughout his career.  An author who criticized him was parodied in one of his works.  A critic who called him a "performing flea" found his words the title of a Wodehouse book.

After reading about the man, I took a look on Amazon and found that I could read his book "My Man Jeeves" for free. I did.  It was interesting.  It's basically a collection of brief tales about people who all claim not to be intelligent, and get into a variety of unfortunate situations.  In many cases, the butler Jeeves (being the only one described as intelligent) often provides a solution that saves the day.

For a modern reader, the 1919-era language can be difficult to sort out at times.  You'll find phrases like "I'm a peaceful sort of cove" (man), "I have never touched you" (borrowed money from you), and "unless I made the thing a bit more plausible, the scheme might turn out a frost" (unless I made it seem more believable, it wasn't going to work).  If you stick with it, though, there are some very interesting turns of phrase, like:
  • "England is a jolly sight too small for anyone to live in with Aunt Agatha, if she's really on the warpath."
  • " hour before he had seen his aunt off to whatever hamlet it was that she was the curse of."
These phrases could easily be confused with something from Douglas Adams, so it's clear he was influenced by Wodehouse's work.

You can often tell when one of Wodehouse's characters is in trouble.  This is usually when an aunt or an uncle arrives.

I expect to read more of his work, both because I can see what Adams enjoyed about it and because I do enjoy puzzling out some of the unfamiliar language.  One of the nice things about Wodehouse's work is that much of it is available free of charge on  Reading it on the Kindle, it's easy to tap an unfamiliar word or phrase and find out what it might mean.

Taking this family tree idea back further, Wodehouse was reportedly inspired by a number of others, including:

It will be interesting to figure out which of these were his primary influences, because this is a lot to wade through.

About the Author

Michael Salsbury / Author & Editor

In his day job, Michael Salsbury helps administer over 1,800 Windows desktop computers for a Central Ohio non-profit. When he's not working, he's writing, blogging, podcasting, home brewing, or playing "warm furniture" to his two Bengal cats.


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