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Eclectic Mix of Blandings Castle and Hollywood Satire
on 4 February 2005
Blandings Castle is an unexpected mix of short stories. After P.G. Wodehouse began to weave his novels about Clarence, Ninth Earl of Emsworth, and his improbable family and friends into a series of hilarious stories, he realized that he needed to fill in a gap. He warns that the first six stories in this collection constitute "the short snorts in between the solid orgies." Specifically, these stories tell us about happenings between Leave It to Psmith and Summer Lightning.
You find out more about why Clarence doesn't like to have his son, the Honorable Freddie around. You also learn about how the Empress of Blandings won her first Fat Pigs competition. The Custody of the Pumpkin shows Clarence as a plant-focused competitor before he became a pig-focused one. Mr. Wodehouse also lets us know how Freddie came to marry his wealthy wife and join the dog biscuit business in the States. Some of these stories have plots that could have been turned into novels, which makes the short stories all the better. The most delicious of the stories is a sweet tale of Clarence taking it upon himself to do the right thing in Lord Emsworth and the Girl Friend.
The seventh tale is a typical Wodehouse country hullabaloo as Bobbie Wickham manipulates all involved to her advantage in dispatching an unwelcome suitor . . . playing the role for herself the Jeeves and Gally usually play in resolving romantic mishaps. It's clever and ever so liberated.
In the last five stories, P.G. Wodehouse unleashes his dissatisfaction with the Hollywood studios into acid satires of moguls and their foibles. For those who know the Hollywood of those days, these tales are almost biographical. Like the Canterbury Tales, there's a delightful element of exaggeration that makes the humor ever so much more tangy. If you dislike phonies, incompetents and those who are out for only themselves, you'll love these stories. If you don't like biting satire, skip these stories. You'll like the earlier seven.