Most helpful positive review
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
The Company You Keep
on February 4, 2005
In P.G. Wodehouse (Thames and Hudson Literary Lives Series), James Connolly offers this advice: "Relax and reread Wodehouse; he's the boy to restore a sense of proportion." Absolutely good advice. I find rereading Wodehouse is more enjoyable than most first reads of other authors, and he's quite easy to reread, even if you don't intend to, because his stories appear in various collections and his novels were often published under various titles.
Something Fresh, officially the first book in the Blandings Castle saga, was published as "Something New" as a serial in The Saturday Evening Post in 1915, and then as a book with the same title in an American edition. "Something Fresh" is a slightly altered British edition of that book. Ashe Marson, the unknown author of the hard-boiled Gridley Quayle, Investigator series of paperback pulps, answers an ad: "WANTED--Young Man of Good Appearance, who is poor and reckless, to undertake delicate and dangerous enterprise. Good pay for the right man." Poor and reckless is a formula in Wodehouse for a good-hearted, down on his luck guy, about to be smiled upon by a beneficent Providence. It's a carry-over from his work in musical comedy and as a struggling writer, but he is one of the few authors who make his leading characters writers, and one of the very few who throws them any of the good parts.
This book is a double bonus, with not only Ashe, but a female writer, Joan Valentine, who knows even more of the hard-bitten life of the streets, and is therefore even poorer and more reckless, as a stellar second in the personnel. Throw in all sorts of millionaires and mix-ups, maids and butlers, a loveable, old, potty Earl, and the beginning of the crime wave at Blandings, and you have the makings of either a rollicking musical comedy or a long series of delightful novels. With Wodehouse it was both. He alternated between the two worlds and if Something Fresh were a film or a musical, Ashe and Joan would no doubt break into song and start dancing about the parlour, as do Gracie Allen, George Burns and Fred Astaire in the Gershwin Brothers' film adaption of Wodehouse's novel, A Damsel in Distress. Why four stars? You can't give everything five, and in my view, as good as Something Fresh is, some of the later Wodehouse novels (such as the Jeeves, Mulliner and Drones Stories) are even better.