Friday, January 14, 2011

Spats Are a Literary Thing, Yo - #4

STORY: "The Fiery Wooing of Mordred" by P.G. Wodehouse

FROM: Young Men in Spats (The Overlook Press, 2002) – I got this copy (the very one pictured above! photographed by me in the sere wasteland that is my backyard!) years ago for free when I worked in a bookstore. Nice paper, good cover, stripey endpapers. Overlook Press should feel at liberty to send me any more free copies of books they might have on hand. I will do random quality checks. I AM HERE FOR YOU, publishers.

BASICALLY: A hilarious send-up of true love and gross negligence by the guy who invented Jeeves. Mordred Mulliner falls in love with Miss Annabelle Sprockett-Sprockett, but must compete with superior chaps for her affections. Probably he should not set her ancestral home on fire.

"Lull." "Levitation." "Lechery." I just started my year of stories, and already I'm in a rut. Hey world, it's an extravaganza of enigmatic L-words from literary ladies! Sure, it was exciting for a time, but here's a palate cleanser for you—some pure and sweet entertainment. First of all, just say the title out loud to yourself a few times. The Fiery Wooing of Mordred. The Fiery Wooing of Mordred. Fiery! MORDRED! The FIRE-y WOO-ing of MOR-dred. The fahry woong of morderd.

Okay. Stop that now.

But it's pretty great, right? Wodehouse has an ear for the ridiculous name (Algie Fripp is good, but I think Sir Murgatroyd approaches sublime) and the wisdom not to overdo it. The story is consistently hilarious, but one senses that the narrator is on the side of his hero:

Smattering Hall destroyed Mordred's last hope. It was one of those vast edifices, so common throughout the countryside of England, whose original founders seem to have budgeted for families of twenty-five or so and a domestic staff of not less than a hundred…Romantic persons, confronted with it, thought of knights in armour riding forth to the Crusades. More earthy individuals felt that it must cost a packet to keep up. Mordred's reaction on passing through the front door was a sort of sick sensation, a kind of settled despair.
I was interested in the way that this story is set up by a frame tale, but apparently that is a Thing That Wodehouse Did. Mordred's tale is recounted by his uncle, but when the story ends, we don't return to the frame and the uncle. Nonetheless, the opening is distinctly amusing on its own terms.

For once I'm going to be all tip-toey around the ending. It's a kick and I don't want to ruin it. Besides, I'm not sure how to dissect Wodehouse's humor without sounding like an ass. So I do recommend you read this, but purely for the pleasure it affords.

In Current Events: The Story Prize

So apparently there is this thing called The Story Prize for "short story collections written in English and published in the U.S. during a calendar year." I know nothing about the 2010 contenders, but the write-ups sound pretty intriguing. Past winners include Tobias Wolff, Jim Shepard, and Mary Gordon.

Apparently they also have a blog that is simply oozing with author interviews for all your vicarious life-of-creativity needs.

¡Viva el cuento!