A while ago I wrote a chapter on Wodehouse and the War for a collection, Middlebrow Wodehouse, that tried to locate PGW in the context of his times, and of popular literature.
The book appeared, and seems to have sunk without much trace. It was published at the sort of silly academic price that means individuals won’t buy it, only university libraries. And in these straitened times all but the better-off libraries concentrate on buying books connected with syllabuses. Which tends to rule Wodehouse out.
The collection has attracted little in the way of attention from reviewers until recently, when a blog post has appeared, objecting to the vocabulary and tone of some chapters.
I won’t say that this is completely unjustified. There is a chapter which looks at Jeeves and Wooster from the standpoint of queer theory, but does so very clumsily. In one or two other chapters there is an uncertainty of tone, as though dealing with Wodehouse obliges the writer to be facetious; when facetiousness mixes with critical jargon, the results are not happy.
The best of the essays do, however, try to understand what PGW is doing, and why. I think that this is a useful operation. Too much critical writing about Wodehouse has been generalising (and slightly condescending) stuff about his creating a ‘world’ that is somehow apart from our world and apart from other literature of his time. I think he deserves better.
For a while I’ve been publishing a critical monograph about his astonishing short story ‘Honeysuckle Cottage’ which shows how it relates to all sorts of themes current in the twenties (and tries to understand why this particular story was selected for special praise by Wodehouse fan Ludwig Wittgenstein). I hope to at last get round to publishing it quite soon.
Meanwhile, I note that some other contributors to Middlebrow Wodehouse have made their chapters available on their own websites (and a fragmentary version of the whole thing can be found on Google Books). I’m therefore uploading my own Wodehouse-and-WW1 to this site.
Re-reading it a couple of years after writing, I’d criticise it for being a bit of a plod through the relevant material, but I don’t think there’s too much off-putting academic jargon. And I think that what I say about PGW’s brother Armine adds considerably to what can be found in the standard biographies.