Saturday, April 28, 2012

Memorable Books: The World of Psmith

Karthik from Random Thoughts is sharing his thoughts on one of my most favorite authors! Karthik presents the rare mix of intelligence, wittiness, idealism, and warm geniality! His excellent sense of humor, humane principles, and immense generosity make him a great friend. I value his views and I'm so glad he's contributing!
At the outset, let me thank Neeraja for her gracious acceptance of this post, and for including this post among the wonderfully perceptive writings from her pen.

Given that I had to finally pick one book, I mulled at length on various options. Finally, after pretending to think for about three milli-seconds, I settled on "The world of Psmith" by PG Wodehouse, perhaps my favourite book, which I first read in my impressionable teen years. Of course, I cheated cos this is really a 3 in 1 omnibus :-)

Psmith is quite the character - Impeccably dressed, polite to a fault, eccentric, monocle-sporting enterprising young man, with an upbeat, and sanguine approach to life. In his inimitable style, he embarks on several far-fetched schemes that land him in all kinds of curious situations, from which he eventually extricates himself; but not before causing much comic anxiety to his fellow comrades, primarily his good friend Mike.. As with all Wodehouse stories, the story lines are convoluted, and hard to compress into a few lines. It suffices to say that Psmith's adventurous streak leads him to explore several career paths that range from being a banker, and a journalist, to masquerading as a poet.

To me, Psmith represents the 'Don't despair ! Come ! let's figure out a way to solve this, and have fun along the way!' school of thought/action. Even on occasions when he does lose, for instance his job, he does so in style, resigning before being fired, offering words of consolation in a facetious manner causing further grief and embarrassment to his boss ! Pmisth's way of life convinces me that being goofy, and not taking life so seriously, could well be one path to wisdom :-)

The real world often pales in comparison to the wondrous possibilities that the Wodehousian one offers. However, having read this book at an impressionable age, Psmith's outlook continues to appeal to me, though it needs to be tempered with the necessary dose of authenticity and pragmatism for it to be even remotely applicable to the real world. On occasions when I have felt low, I have often turned to this book to raise my spirits, and it has never let me down. In fact, I know of at least one unconventional book on personal mastery that actually recommends reading Psmith, and observing the way he responds to the interesting questions that life throws at us now and then :-)

As with much of Wodehouse's writings, the quality of 'adult innocence' shines through. Having been exposed to Wodehouse's writings, classy and refined in all their silliness, I ended up developing an active dislike for the crude brand of double entendres that often pass off as humour these days.

I'm always amazed as to how little the world has changed in the 100 odd years since he wrote some of his books ! Would the world be a better place if they made Wodehouse mandatory reading in high school/college? Well, I certainly think so. Wodehouse packs in so much about real life in so subtle a way, that one could well call it 'deceptive silliness'. There is much wisdom, and understanding of human foibles behind his writings, cleverly hidden beneath all the humour, and they gently remind us to not take ourselves too seriously( Wouldn't the world be a better place if this notion alone had been drilled into everyone's heads? :).

Unlike other heroes who often disappoint us with the real life example they set, I had no such trouble with Wodehouse, with him coming across as a gentle, kind person by all accounts. If you enjoy reading Wodehouse, you will almost certainly enjoy this omnibus! Chemistry labs have been known to stock copies of this book in the event of them running out of nitrous oxide. And at the risk of facing stiff opposition, if there is just one work of fiction I could take away with me to a desert island, I have no hesitation in declaring that this would be it !
Karthik, my heart sings and dances reading each sentence! Awesome post! Psmith is one my favorite characters as well. As one Wodehousian to another, I can't say how thrilled I am to hear you capture the essence and brilliance of Wodehouse. "Deceptive silliness" - how true! The world would definitely be a better place if Wodehouse is made mandatory reading in schools :). Thanks again for the excellent post!

If you're interested in participating in this guest feature here's more information on it.


Meens said...


What an awesome contribution... its awesomeness is in its straight-from-the-heart tone inspite of the grand writing :-) Wodehousian, in fact!

These lines put a smile on my face:
"being goofy, and not taking life so seriously, could well be one path to wisdom :-) "
"There is much wisdom, and understanding of human foibles behind his writings, cleverly hidden beneath all the humour"
"Chemistry labs have been known to stock copies of this book in the event of them running out of nitrous oxide."

And Neeraja,

What a great feature you've thought and implemented here. Its so beautiful that its coming together so well. Its a beautiful way to show mutual respect on this page
:-) Its so nice, not only to read these posts, but also to think about the noble feelings behind them!


Karthik said...

Meens, thanks a lot for the generous words :-)

Neeraja said...

Meens, thank you! True, this is a wonderful post from Karthik.

You're being far too kind, as always. Thank you :)