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Esquire
Wednesday, June 12th, 2002


 

Laughing Gas

by P G Wodehouse

A review by Adrienne Miller

Right then. We're just so frightfully pleased by Overlook Press's sensational new Wodehouse program, reissuing eight of the old so-and-so's books and all that. This event is indeed cause to rub one's fingers together in oily glee. Oh, you certainly know who this P.J. Wodehouse fellow is. He published over ninety novels, so 'tis true that this program is an ambitious one, as was the writer of such ha-has as, "We Havershots are men of action, even when we have been turned into kids with golden curls smelling, I now perceived, of a rather offensive brand of brilliantine" (from Laughing Gas, in which an English Earl switches souls with a child movie star).

This brilliant English novelist was perhaps the greatest farce writer of the twentieth century, and the creator, most famously, of the sensational Wooster and Jeeves duo. One of the results of having read an entire weekend's worth of Wodehouse is that one starts to sound rather like him, if in tragically cheapened or, more to the point, bastardized form. Another result of having read, reread in some cases (if you please), Laughing Gas, Heavy Weather, Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit, I could go on, is this: Life becomes somehow more madcap, wittier, sparklier, more like something dear Oscar Wilde would approve of, and people and situations who and which had previously seemed unamusing suddenly, joyously, are. Wodehouse's world is so utterly contagious because he wrote with a certain nonchalance, a merry ebullience. These volumes are handsome, companionable, aesthetically pleasing, reasonably priced ($16.95, not that any aesthete should worry over anything so vulgar as money), and, in a word, delicious.

Adrienne Miller is Esquire's literary editor.


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