Friday, October 07, 2005

Pelham Grenville & Modernity

As promised, a reflection on the essay mentioned earlier: approporiately enough, Botttom writes a beautiful paeon to the Wodehouse's prose, emphasizing the role of joy in Wodehouse's stories. By isolating his fictional world from all of the upheavals and tragedies of the 20th century, Wodehouse provides a place in which joy can survive; and by doing so Wodehouse rejects the joyless ideologies of the century:

"'It was her intention to start you almost immediately upon Nietzche. You would not like Nietzche, sir. He is fundamentally unsound.'
"And, really, that's the point. Nietzche is fundamentally unsound for a variety of reasons that will occur to the theologically minded. But here is another and possibly more telling proof of his unsoundness: Bertie Wooster, one of the great innocents in literature, wouldn't like at all to have read him, no matter how alluring Florence Craye is in profile. The best answer to Freidrich Nietzche we've managed yet to come up with is the prose of P.G. Wodehouse."

This may seem obscure, but Bottom argues that civilization best survives when it concerns itself with joy rather than engaging the forces of modernity with hammer & tongs.

"'Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.' And it's true. Joy does come in the morning, and laughter from reading P.G. Wodehouse. That's a small grace, but a real one."

The same issue of First Things contains an article on Darfur, showing that joy is still needed; for joy is the strongest antidote against the low'ring darkness.


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