Friday, March 29, 2013

A Funny 15 Minutes

I encourage whimsical reading. And by whimsical I mean grabbing a book from your shelf and dipping into it if only for 15-20 minutes. Subject matter doesn't matter -- read whatever strikes your fancy at that moment. Essays and short stories, or maybe a graphic novel, these are short enough that you'll be able to get through them from beginning to end within a short period of time. I'd flock to one of those first. So it is in that vein that I decided to grab a P.G. Wodehouse anthology from the shelf last night and spend 15 minutes with the comic master.

If you don't know who P.G. Wodehouse is, well, I'll save the complete biographical rundown for another time and another post, but he was -- and arguably remains -- one of the funniest writers in the English language. He wrote over 50 novels, numerous short stories, plays, and letters.  Funny and touching, a new collection of his letters was recently released this year. What makes him great is his ability to fill almost every page with a fresh simile or metaphor, a well turned phrase, and great dialogue. Here's a small sample:

“Mike nodded. A sombre nod. The nod Napoleon might have given if somebody had met him in 1812 and said, "So, you're back from Moscow, eh?” .... “A melancholy-looking man, he had the appearance of one who has searched for the leak in life's gas-pipe with a lighted candle.”.... And this beauty: “Freddie experienced the sort of abysmal soul-sadness which afflicts one of Tolstoy's Russian peasants when, after putting in a heavy day's work strangling his father, beating his wife, and dropping the baby into the city's reservoir, he turns to the cupboards, only to find the vodka bottle empty.”  You get the idea.  

I opened my copy of The Most of P.G. Wodehouse and read the first story of short stories collectively called "The Golf Stories."  The first story is called "The Coming of Gowf." 

 Imagine a King of a fictional kingdom discovering -- from a indentured servant, Scottish of course -- that there is some "savage religious" ceremony in which sticks are used to hit round objects.   Here we have the king's first introduction to this strange new "religion."

 "According to the admiral, the dunes by the seashore where he landed were covered with a multitude of men behaving just as this man is doing. They had sticks in their hands and they struck with these at small round objects. And every now and again----

"And every now and again," went on the Vizier, "they would utter the strange melancholy cry which you have just heard. It is a species of chant." "Fo-o-ore!" called a gruff voice from below.

Needless to say, the King is interested in this strange new "religion." I will not give away the ending, but reader, I'm sure you know a few people who have discovered the game of golf, or who play golf, only to realize that for them, it is a little more than a game. 

You'll find the "Coming of Gowf" online actually.  If you have a few minutes -- maybe only 15 or 20 -- then click here and give it a go.  


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