Less a biography than a series of bio-critical essays, this study of the great Plum ranges from pedantic to informative to...


P. G. WODEHOUSE: A Literary Biography

Less a biography than a series of bio-critical essays, this study of the great Plum ranges from pedantic to informative to mildly charming. Green stresses the ""schoolboy sensibility"" throughout--Wodehouse's lifelong idealization of the most blessed years in his life; early work is analyzed in detail, with enlightening cross-references to other authors in the school-novel genre. Then, after a brief glimpse of P.G.'s fortunate failure as a bank-clerk, Green focuses on the transatlantic nature of the Wodehouse output--the influences of his years as a Greenwich Village freelancer, as a Vanity Fair toiler: ""He became a dual citizen, a kind of literary Herbert Marshall ploughing not one lonely furrow but two at the same time."" And Wodehouse's theatrical career receives more attention here than in most PGW studies: there's a sound appreciation of Wodehouse's triumphs as an influential musical-comedy lyricist; a plausible theory that finds theatrical techniques (""ruthless economy,"" etc.) helping to shape later Wodehouse novels; and a rather foolish, academic tracing of popsong references through the Wodehouse canon. After a similarly plodding look at Wodehouse in Hollywood, however, Green turns more serious--with a painstaking examination of Wodehouse's WW II disaster as a POW broadcaster; he assesses all the evidence and decides that PGW ""displayed foolishness worthy of the most witless of his heroes""--but that ""political chicanery and bureaucratic moral imbecility"" conspired with ""intellectual dishonesty"" to magnify Plum's foolishness into a life-ruining scandal. There's little here about Wodehouse's private life after adolescence. And Green's rather hyperbolic critiques are hardly definitive: he barely mentions Jeeves, finds ""felicitous phrase-making"" to be the sole real attraction of mature Wodehouse, and far too glibly calls him ""the most gifted comic novelist of the century."" But if David A. Jasen's recently revised biography is better-balanced, this uneven, circumlocutory gathering of close-up studies has more than a few intriguing highlights for dedicated Wodehouse-ians.

Pub Date: Oct. 29, 1981


Page Count: -

Publisher: Rutledge Press--dist. by W. H. Smith (112 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10016)

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1981