There are times in my life when chemical-driven emotions throw a party in the brain. Such times are not particularly conducive to reading a Nabokov, brilliant as it may be, and the Bronte sisters had better take their romantic
drivel words with them and hide. Such times are best served by a Wodehouse. Any Wodehouse. But if it features the obese sow, Empress, you’ve hit the jackpot.
I was introduced to Wodehouse by one of my two first best friends, Shobha, when I was in eighth. I read a Jeeves collection first and was hooked. Studying in an all-girls convent school, and being of prudish temperament, my crushes had been restricted to characters from books (Joe Hardy, Perry Mason, etc.) and Bertie Wooster soon joined the ranks. My father’s thirty-year old membership at the British Council library enabled me to bring home hard-bound, leather jacketed Wodehouses that smelled of old paper, dust and air conditioning, which I devoured at a time when my classmates were marking the juicy pages in M&Bs with Natraj pencils. Somewhere along the line, I read books based on Blandings castle, and my allegiance shifted from Bertie Wooster to Gally Threepwood, who, I imagined, was fashioned after the author himself, and so by extension, I developed a crush on Wodehouse, who, unfortunately had been long dead by then.
Pigs have wings has all the arrows from the Wodehouse quiver – brilliant mix of profound and banal vocabulary (“Ice formed on the butler’s upper slopes”), genius of convoluted plot, too many characters who intertwine into knots, to be untangled effortlessly in the end, complicated sentence syntaxes, interesting slangs (although the one PGW created to stay for posterity, “oomph”, does not feature in this one), unusual allusions (“Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing”), weird metaphors (“it seemed to George Cyril Wellbeloved that the end of the world had come and Judgment Day set in with unusual severity”), and detailed trivialities. There is Galahad Threepwood, the never-ageing last of the Pelicans, Lord Emsworth himself, the amiable but absent minded peer, and the truest love of his life, the Empress of Blandings – a serious contender in the fat pig contest, Emsworth’s sister, Connie, the bane of Blandings, the efficient butter – Beech a-la Jeeves, Sir Gregory Parsloe-Parsloe, a fellow, competitive fat pig owner, and the romantic entangles of Penelope Donaldson, Jerry Vail, Orlo Vesper, Gloria Salt and Maudie, the bargirl turned detective, with romantic baggage shared with Sir Parsloe. Only Wodehouse can save you from the delirium of so many characters and equal number of plot twists.
I can never decide if the Jeeves-Wooster collection or the Blandings collection is better in the Wodehouse repertoire. If you add the Mulliner and the golf stories into it, you have a serious case of confusion. Whichever is the best, Wodehouse will continue to remain my sanctuary from ennui, for its stiff upper lip humour, with which I have been raised. Wodehouse perhaps takes me back to the days of my youth, where it was possible to laugh out loud, unburdened by the cares of the world.