Sunday, December 18, 2016

Plum Pie by P. G. Wodehouse

For my Back to the Classics Challenge, I needed a volume of short stories, so I turned to my own TBR shelves. Lately, I've been in dire need of fun, escapist reads, and P. G. Wodehouse has never let me down. I chose Plum Pie, a collection of nine stories. First published in 1966, it just made the cutoff for the challenge.

Wodehouse had an amazingly long publishing career -- his first novel The Pothunters was published in 1902; his last complete novel, Aunts Aren't Gentlemen was published an astonishing 72 years later, in 1974. Though Plum Pie is late in the Wodehouse oeuvre, it still has some stellar moments, and include some of his classic bits, including Jeeves and Wooster, a golf story, a Blandings story, and an Ukridge story.

By far my favorites from the collection were the first story, "Jeeves and the Greasy Bird," in which Jeeves and Aunt Agatha manage to disentangle Bertie from an unwanted engagement once again (seriously, how many times has Bertie inadvertently been betrothed?) and the final story, "Life with Freddie," which is really a 70-plus page novella about Freddie Threepwood of the Drones club. That one involves three different romantic entanglements on a cruise ship; smuggling an expensive diamond necklace to avoid paying stiff import taxes; and Freddie's attempts to land a dog biscuit account with a large department store executive. It's all very slapstick and silly and naturally it ends well for the majority of the characters (well, at least the ones I was rooting for).

Hugh Laurie as the hapless Bertie Wooster and Stephen Fry as Jeeves in the brilliant ITV adaptation from the early 1990s.
I love Wodehouse but some of these stories seemed a bit tired and not very memorable, and I'm quite sure at least one of the stories had a recycled plot about a dog that was given away and had to be stolen back (I swear I've seen that story with Bertie Wooster and a Scottish terrier on the TV adaptation. Is it technically considered plagiarizing if a writer copies his own work?) And when will the members of the Drones club ever learn that it's a very bad idea to bet money on horse races -- especially money that they don't actually have?  However, even if the plots and themes are the same, Wodehouse nearly always manages to amuse me.

Most of the stories in this volume were previously published in magazines; also, there are some bits and pieces between the stories which I believe are excerpts from newspaper columns Wodehouse published in the U.S. They really didn't add much to the collection. However, lesser Wodehouse works are still funnier than most books and stories, so it wasn't a waste of time.

Overall, I'd say this is worth reading if you are a die-hard Wodehouse fan. If you're a Wodehouse beginner, I'd stick with some of the earlier Jeeves collections, like Very Good, Jeeves or The Code of the Woosters, both of which is are just brilliant. I've only read about a dozen of Wodehouse's works so I have plenty of books left before I run out, in which case I will start over from the beginning.

Bloggers, are any of you Wodehouse fans? Which are your favorites?


  1. I have never read any Wodehouse but I really loved the Mapp & Lucia books by E.F. Benson so I think I would like them if I tried. I have a bind up of a few of the Wooster and Jeeves novels but just haven't gotten 'round yet to trying them.

    1. I read four of the Mapp and Lucia novels this year, they were wonderful! Mapp & Lucia was my favorite so far. The TV adaptation of Jeeves & Wooster is just wonderful, and there are a lot of short stories in which they appear also.

  2. In university-land, reusing your own work without citing the author is considered self-plagiarism. Students will get up to the darnedest things: re-submitting whole essays or paragraphs done for one course in another course; reusing data from experiments they've turned in previously without acknowledging it’s past work. Self-plagiarism is academic misconduct and has the same fallout as other types of plagiarism. But in literary-land, from creative writing to reviews for reading challenges, I take the tolerant view that they are your words and you can do anything with your own words that you want. So Wodehouse can recycle plots as he feels best and I don’t have a problem with that. In a career spanning 70 years, he probably forgot he used the stolen doggie plot once or twice before.


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