Last year I chanced upon a BBC documentary called Wogan on Wodehouse. Broadcast in 2011, Terry Wogan pieces together P.G. Wodehouse’s life and its parallels in his writings, often brilliantly inspired. Unlike some documentaries that try to uncover supposed hidden truths or darker aspects in an author’s works through their life, the parallels only further illuminate Wodehouse’s brilliance as a wordsmith and his ability in seeing the humour in life.
I believe I was between the ages of thirteen and fourteen when I read my first Wodehouse book, Carry On, Jeeves. Since then, I’ve read more of his books and enjoy them as much as I did upon first reading them, if not more so. After reading any of his stories, I always come away with a feeling that I can only describe as rich and uplifted. How he uses language is invigorating.
Most of the enjoyment that one gets out of reading his writing is his use of simile, alliteration, and witty, sometimes irreverent, allusions and references to Shakespeare and classical studies, usually the Romantic poets, and the Bible. All of which are handled deftly. His writing is such that he is one of those very few writers in which one derives more enjoyment by reading it himself than hearing it read out loud or narrated, as when listening to an audiobook.
This is an issue that also confronts people who have tried to adapt his stories, through the years, to the screen. Though it’s the only one I’ve watched entirely, it seems the most successful was the ITV Jeeves and Wooster that starred Hugh Laurie as Bertie Wooster and Stephen Fry as Jeeves.
Until watching this documentary I had never before heard him speak or viewed footage of him. Upon watching him, he struck me as a lovely man and matches his writings and his character in the written word. Most of all, I was impressed by his work output – up to 25,000 words a day – and his opinion about rewriting and editing helped reshape my own views on the creative process as a writer.