This is the first Blandings Castle novel, and the first novel in what we now think as the true P.G. Wodehouse style. For the first time, the interplay between absent-minded peers, quick-to-anger relatives and friends, and those amazing good-natured yet good-for-nothing younger sons come together in a comic dance of quick assumptions, identity switches, flirts with embarrassment, and, oh yes, love.
If Wodehouse wasn’t so widely admired by the critics, I would have to claim him as a guilty pleasure. Although I can quote style and form with the best of them, the real truth is that I read Wodehouse because he amuses. I once heard (or did I read it in Danse Macabre?) Stephen King describe his formula for horror as something like, “I go for the willies first…if I don’t get the reader with the willies, I go for the creeps…if the creeps don’t work, I go for the gross out” (I’m sure I’ve managed to totally mangle that in the paraphrasing). Wodehouse is different, although the comparison could be made that he follows the King rule inasmuch as he tries every trick in his hand to tickle your funny bone while King is trying to get a chill down your back. But for Wodehouse, it’s not an escalation of tactics, as if going from DEF CON 5 to DEF CON 1 is something that a writer must do. In Wodehouse’s hands, the sly wink equals the over-the-top exaggeration, and only one will work in the place that he puts it.
I tried to slow my reading speed down on this book, to gain an understanding of the flow and the way the language worked. I failed miserably–before I realized it, I was caught up once again in the action of the story and I wasn’t observing but enjoying. I’m thinking that to truly study a novel, I am going to have to force myself to retype it.
[Finished 5 June 1994]