Play It Again, Plum!

“It has been well said of Bertram Wooster that though he may sink onto rustic benches and for a while give the impression of being licked into a custard,
the old spirit will come surging back sooner or later.”

—P.G. Wodehouse, The Mating Season

Robert McCrum demurs from critical comparisons of P.G. Wodehouse with the great English writers, including Shakespeare and Dickens, arguing that “Wodehouse is a miniaturist and his work is not like theirs.  He is closer in spirit to Jane Austen, who famously worked on a ‘little bit (two inches wide)’ of ivory.”

To my mind, McCrum’s concept of Wodehouse is slightly amiss—or perhaps it is the terminology that is inaccurate.  Turning briefly from the field of English letters to that of Russian literature, we find the obvious example of Tolstoy immediately to hand.  If ever there was a “great writer,” Leo Tolstoy was it—for the reason, above all, that he anticipated Flannery O’Connor’s dictum that the novelist should take for his subject none but what is of crucial importance and applied it (as she did) to the story as well as the novel (indeed, to nearly every line he ever wrote).  McCrum, for his own part, claims this standard of cruciality for Wodehouse, when he writes that behind


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