The master humorist’s letters tell a different kind of story


“…It’s easy to think of Wodehouse (1881–1975) as the purveyor of literary comfort food. The flyleaves of Overlook Press’s Collector’s Wodehouse editions would make excellent wallpaper for a sanatorium, and simply seeing the spines on a shelf never fails to soothe me. A friend mentions that any random Wodehouse is his go-to subway reading—perfect for dipping into, no emotional commitment, it doesn’t matter if you don’t finish it. Indeed, you might have already finished it: The remarkable consistency and volume of his output means you can be pretty far into something before it dawns on you that you’ve read it before. Even his titles are designed to blur the lines. I couldn’t be trusted to tell you the difference between Mulliner Nights and Mr. Mulliner Speaking, Heavy Weather and Summer Lightning, Carry On, Jeeves and Very Good, Jeeves, though I’ve read them all. (I think.) This is in fact a virtue of Wodehouse’s work, although as we learn in a new collection of his letters, the author was sensitive to accusations that he was continually raking over the same fictional ground. In 1932, Wodehouse grumbled about a review by J. B. Priestley, who “called attention to the thing I try to hush up,—viz., that I have only got one plot and produce it once a year with variations.”…”