Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Orange County Register on the Wry World of P.G. WODEHOUSE

Timothy Mangan of the Orange County Register takes a long look at one of Overlook's favorite publishing projects: The Collector's Wodehouse.

"The latest installments of the complete edition of P.G. Wodehouse from Overlook Press have arrived and all is sweetness and light. Nothing Serious (the title might serve for all of this author's writing) and Psmith, Journalist (the p is silent) are, if my math is correct, numbers 62 and 63 in the Overlook series, which in years hence will run to more than 90 uniform volumes. And beautiful volumes they are, printed on Scottish cream-wove, acid-free paper, sewn and bound in cloth, with piquantly illustrated dust jackets. Jeeves would no doubt approve. Perhaps more importantly, Wodehouse fans will approve: the Overlook Wodehouse revives many hard-to-find gems, not otherwise available in print.

In fact, Wodehouse's books have dated little if at all. His books unfold in an aristocratic alternative universe where the only people who seem to have ever worked for a living are the butlers. It would seem to be a real world, dating to a certain place and time, but it probably never existed at all. At any rate, it is surprising how few contemporary references the books include. A book written by Wodehouse in the '20s reads much the same as one written in the '60s. Radio or television do not intrude, nor do wars or other news; transportation is provided by cars and trains, occasionally ships. There are telephones and telegrams. But the main activities are timeless – eating, drinking, smoking, conniving, and the pursuit of love. It seems familiar and remains funny, unlike much of the comedy of the past."

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