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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

British "Humour" Mini-reviews

So as I mentioned briefly, on my honeymoon I delved into Wodehouse and Stella Gibbons for the first time. It was delightful to read two authors who actually caused me to laugh out loud repeatedly.

Bertie Wooster Sees It Through: For those who don't know, the Wooster and Jeeves novels are narrated by Bertie Wooster, a layabout, cocktail-loving member of the landed gentry, who gets into repeated scrapes and has to rely on the brilliance and rationality of his "man" Jeeves to extricate himself. Wodehouse pulls off a delightful feat by combining a stupid narrator with a brilliant narration. While the plot at times is slow--plots are really incidental to this series-- there was always another punchline to keep me reading. You have to like upper crusty British LOLs to like Wodehouse, but I know my audience does, egalitarian though we may be. I'm thrilled to have Wodehouse to return to when I next need a literary chuckle.

Cold Comfort Farm: This satire of the British "rural melodrama" (Bronte, Hardy, Lawrence, and a slew of popular novels in between) wasn't as funny a read initially but the laughs lingered longer. It's the tale of Flora Poste, a "tidy" young woman from London who decides to organize her batty, sinister-seeming relatives at Cold Comfort Farm in Howling, Sussex. They are a cliche-ridden bunch of eccentrics ripe for being tidied a la Flora's heroine Jane Austen. To describe their lives Gibbons brilliantly adds new words and phrases to the language to evoke their "dialect," from "mollocking" (fornication) to "scranleting" (some sort of ploughing) to the heavy flowering plant Sukebind, whose blooming seems to lead to the aforesaid mollocking. And of course the phrase "something nasty in the woodshed" repeated in the book by mad old Aunt Ada Doom until meaningless, has entered the vernacular. It's quite brilliant in retrospect, and we're currently halfway through the lovely, very true-to-the-book '95 adaptation with Eileen Atkins, Ian McKellen, EBC local god Rufus Sewell, and Kate Beckinsale.

1995 was quite the year for adaptations! And British writers are quite the set for sending up their own literary and social traditions, bless them.

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