We Still Need to Laugh

Lord Emsworth Acts for the Best: The Collected Blandings Short ...

Well, that last post snuffed out my little flicker of optimism. On to something different!

A good laugh helps us keep our sanity. Lord Emsworth Acts for the Best, by P.G. Wodehouse, is one of the funniest books I’ve ever read. Just thinking about it begins to raise my spirits.

It’s a collection of stories featuring the addled mind of Clarence, Lord Emsworth, and his batty neighbors and relations. The stories are full of gems like this:

“There was a sharp clicking noise in the darkness. It was caused by Angela’s upper front teeth meeting her lower front teeth; and was followed by a sort of wordless exhalation. It seemed only too plain that the love and respect which a niece should have for an uncle were in the present instance at a very low ebb.”

When the central character of the stories owns “an IQ some 30 points below that of an absent-minded jellyfish” (Wodehouse was being charitable), all sorts of odd things happen. The earl is aided and abetted in creating ridiculous situations by his domineering sister, Constance, and his scatterbrained wastrel of a son, Freddie.

As gorgeous and as loony as the humor in these stories is, it’s never mean, never nasty. That was the author’s gift: we love these goofy characters in spite of their incurable goofiness. It’s not a flattering picture of the English upper class, but it’s not exactly the Three Stooges throwing pies, either. It’s just unique.

See? I feel better now! And so will you, if you visit the earl at Blandings Castle.

Oh–and the BBC Blandings series, based on the books, is screamingly funny, too.

Laughter, the Best Medicine

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Laughter is good medicine. That’s why God gave it to us.

After reporting some of the nooze today, I felt the need to flush my mind–with a good cigar and a Blandings Castle story by P.G. Wodehouse, in a collection called Lord Emsworth Acts for the Best.

These are among the funniest stories ever written, and Wodehouse wrote them for 62 years. The cast of characters at Blandings features the absent-minded Lord Emsworth, master of the castle and all-around fumbler, his tyrannical sister, Connie, his ninnie of a son, Freddie, the monumental butler, Beach, and a multitude of guest stars, each one daffier than the other. Just getting through the day is challenge enough for these people.

Wodehouse, also famous for his Jeeves & Wooster stories, is unique in that there’s hardly a single paragraph that doesn’t pack at least one laugh line. Lord Emsworth, for instance, hates to dress up: his favorite suit makes him look “like a minor employee with a firm of shady detectives.” The earl’s wandering mind, if you want to call it a mind, can’t keep hold of the thread of any conversation.

But it’s futile to try to describe such a heaped treasury of laughter.

There’s also a BBC TV series, Blandings, which quite faithfully presents a dozen of these stories in all their glorious inanity. Catch it if you can!

Thanks to the title story, which at one place made me laugh aloud, causing the cigar to fall out of my mouth and onto my lap–quick and decisive action averted a disaster–my mind has been flushed and I’m ready to go back to work typing up chapters of my current Bell Mountain book, His Mercy Endureth Forever.

Thank you, Lord, for P.G. Wodehouse and his preposterous comedies.