I wrote about my first reactions to Something Fresh by P G Wodehouse in a Sunday Salon post – click here. I finished it a week or so ago (I borrowed it from the library) and it’s made me want to read more of Wodehouse’s books. It’s very entertaining and amusing, indeed farcical at the end.
I did find it mildly confusing when I read that Ashe Marson, the young English writer looking for ‘something fresh’ to get him out of the rut he was in, was renting a flat off Leicester Square in London for five dollars a week and there was a later reference to the cost of something (I forget what) in dollars. Wodehouse to me was a British writer and wrote very British books and this book was published in the UK. So I had to look it up. Ah – Something Fresh was first published in serial form in the Saturday Evening Post between June and August 1915, (American), then in the USA in book form as Something New on September 3 1915 and nearly two weeks later in the UK. So some Americanisms appear to have survived.
Once I got over this little stumbling block I read the book without any interruptions. As I wrote in my earlier post Ashe and Joan Valentine are both employed to retrieve the scarab that Lord Emsworth absent-mindedly pocketed when visiting Mr Peters his son’s future father-in-law. Lord Emsworth under the impression that Mr Peters has given him the scarab has exhibited it in the museum at his family home Blandings Castle.
Alerted to the plans to steal back the scarab, Baxter – the Efficient Baxter – Lord Emsworth’s secretary, sits on guard all night to foil the thief. The result is pure farce, with fights in the dark, mistaken identites, crashing furniture and valuable china smashed – most enjoyable mayhem. I much prefer farce on the page than on stage!
I loved the language -just one example picked at random:
The Efficient Baxter was coming down the broad staircase. A general suspicion of mankind and a definite and particular suspicion of one individual make a bad opiate. For over an hour sleep had avoided the Efficient Baxter with an unconquerable coyness. He had tried all the known ways of wooing slumber, but they had failed him, from the counting of sheep downwards. The events of the night had whipped his mind to a restless activity. Try as he might to lose consciousness, the recollection of the plot he had discovered surged up and kept him wakeful. It is the penalty of the suspicious type of mind that it suffers from its own activity. (Page 160)