Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Plum's (knock-out) Punch - A book review

(Warning: The following post has been written under the direct and heavy influence of Wodehouse stories. Quite naturally, the post is going to be well-rounded in its approach. And yes, this isn’t a book review as much as an appreciation note to Plum’s great writing prowess. You have been warned. Enjoy at your own risk.)

The world and its uncle knows that I love reading P.G. Wodehouse’s Wooster stories. I have been under the spell ever since I started reading them while I was in high school.

However, I have always been troubled by the fact that I couldn’t read Plum beyond the Wooster series. I tried reading ‘The Gold Bat’ and found that I nodded off to sleep…every time I tried going past the fourth page! Incredible. Perhaps, the fellow was just starting off on his long and illustrious literary career when he wrote ‘The Gold Bat’. There could be no other explanation.

However, I also remember reading ‘The Indiscretions of Archie’ during my college days and having loved it through and through. (As a matter of fact, I remember how I came to become the proud owner of a copy of that book. I was a member of the British Council’s Kolkata library then and they were selling off old books at throwaway prices. And that’s how I bought the book at a princely sum of Rs. 10!!) The tale of how a young blighter attempts to reconcile his differences with a father-in-law whom he has previously called a thoroughly incompetent baboon (or some such similar term of endearment) me in splits throughout the book.

Anyway, a couple of days ago, I managed to lay my hands (figuratively speaking) on an e-mail (hence the ‘figurative’ feel) which had a few short-stories and novels written by Wodehouse in the e-book format. “Voila!! Let the show begin,” I remember telling myself. And much like Caesar, I started going through the e-books.

The first one that I’ve completed is one titled ‘Plum Punch – Four Short Tales’. Hmm. ‘Plum Punch’. It almost sounded like a freshly prepared cocktail. I couldn’t resist but start with this one. I’m glad to tell you, ladies and gentlemen, I haven’t been disappointed. What follows is more of an appreciation note rather than a book review.

The first story in the collection is ‘Dudley Jones – Bore Hunter’. You read that right, ‘Bore’ hunter and not ‘Boar’ hunter, as your animal-hating instinct might have led you to perceive. It tells of the adventure of one Mr. Dudley Jones who helps a pretty young lady get rid of an unwelcome guest to her house who has a penchant for ‘boring’ people with his unwanted banter.

The most hilarious characteristic of this quality was that it is a spoof of the Sherlock Holmes’ narratives. Sample this:

"Well, JONES," I said encouragingly, "What do you make of it?"

"I never form theories, as you are perfectly well aware," he replied curtly. "Pass me my bagpipes."

I passed him his bagpipes and vanished.

It was late when I returned.

I found JONES lying on the floor with his head in a coal-scuttle.

"Well, WUDDUS," he said, "so you've come back?"

"My dear JONES, how__?"

"Tush, I saw you come in."

Simply hilarious.

The other stories are very similar… short, simple and quaintly funny. Of particular interest to fellow lazy-bones would be the last story, aptly titled ‘The Sluggard’. How being sluggish saved the life of Uncle James is the prime motive here.

But consider this brilliant opening to the story and you shall know beyond a shadow of doubt why I loved it the most:

My Uncle James, whose memoirs I am now preparing for publication, was a many-sided man; but his chief characteristic, I am inclined to think, was the indomitable resolution with which, disregarding hints, entreaties and even direct abuse, he would lie in bed of a morning. I have seen the domestic staff of his hostess day after day manoeuvring restlessly in the passage outside his room, doing all those things which women do who wish to rout a man out of bed without moving Uncle James an inch. Footsteps might patter outside his door; voices might call one to the other; knuckles might rap the panels; relays of shaving−water might be dumped on his washstand; but devil a bit would Uncle James budge, till finally the enemy, giving in, would bring him his breakfast in bed.

All in all, a must read for a slow moving Saturday afternoon. And by the by, all these four stories take up only 12 pages!! Go ahead; grab that e-book (figuratively speaking, of course).

No comments: