"He instinctively can find the shining greatness of our American culture and does a good job of highlighting it (although he also does have those rare lapses when he writes about hockey, but that is something caused by impurities in the Eastern waters or something)." Erik Keilholtz
Under the patronage of St. Tammany
Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children. Email
These snoozing baby jaguars were snapped at the zoo this weekend. Inspired by El Tigre of the Americas, here's a version of what has become the site theme, "Tiger Rag," played by Bix Beiderbecke. For more, try the Jack Hylton gallery, right under "Tid-dle-id-dle-um-pum!"
Which brings us to Bertie Wooster: A new biography of P. G. Wodehouse is reviewed in the Atlantic Monthly by Christopher Hitchens, who's clearly an admirer but not a hagiographer:
Indeed, if anything could ever put one off being a Wodehouse fan, it would be the somewhat cultish element among his admirers and biographers. Such people have a tendency to allude to him as "The Master." They publish monographs about the exact geographical location of Blandings Castle, or the Drones Club. They hold dinners at which breadstuffs are thrown. Their English branch publishes the quarterly Wooster Sauce, and their American branch publishes the quarterly Plum Lines: two painfully unfunny titles. They materialize, in other words, Evelyn Waugh's view that Wodehouse created a delightful, self-contained world of his own. The only modern comparison I can think of is to the sterner "Irregulars" who have their shrine at 221b Baker Street.
Robert McCrum is by no means immune from the lure of all this, but his biography has a tendency to let in daylight upon the magic. Wodehouse was a rather beefy, hearty chap, with a lifelong interest in the sporting subculture of the English boarding school and a highly developed instinct for the main chance. He had no sex life or love life worth recording, and seemed to reserve his affections primarily for animals. He was so self-absorbed that he was duped into collaboration with the Nazis and had to plead the "bloody fool" defense. His subsequently wrecked reputation was redeemed only by an almost manic focus on work, and by an insistence on reproducing a lost and dreamy world of English innocence.
Hitchens provides some illustrative snippets of the Wodehouse style:
Simile and metaphor provide so much of the energy of Wodehouse's narration: "He writhed like an electric fan"; "He wilted like a salted snail"; "Ice formed on the butler's upper slopes"; "There came a sound like that of Mr. G. K. Chesterton falling onto a sheet of tin"; "He looked like a sheep with a secret sorrow"; "A lifetime of lunches had caused his chest to slip down to the mezzanine floor"; "Aunt calling to aunt, like mastodons bellowing across the primeval swamp."
A man who wore a tie that went twice round the neck was sure, sooner or later, to inflict some hideous insult on helpless womanhood. Add tortoiseshell-rimmed glasses, and you had what practically amounted to a fiend in human shape.
She looked at me like someone who has just solved the crossword puzzle with a shrewd ``Emu'' in the top right hand corner.
It was my Uncle George who discovered that alcohol was a food well in advance of modern medical thought.
I turned to Aunt Agatha, whose demeanour was now rather like that of one who, picking daisies on the railway, has just caught the down express on the small of the back.
Roderick Spode? Big chap with a small moustache and the sort of eye that can open an oyster at sixty paces?
I didn't intend to get off on the tangent of religion. I'm not particularly religious myself, after all. Nevertheless, I think the great irony of this election is that for all the talk of how the bigoted Right won, the Left's loss has sparked far more bigotry. Their clever trick is to defend their hatred of the religious by calling it a hatred of bigotry itself — a rationalization no liberal would tolerate from any other kind of bigot.