In his article, “God & Bertie Wooster” Joseph Bottum, one of my favorite contemporary poets and commentator on literature, explains why Wodehouse is a necessary antidote to Nietzche and all other ailments fo the modern waste land.
As it happens, Bertie Wooster and the other young men of P.G. Wodehouse�s world have little in their lives except leisure. They use it mostly in desperate pursuit, or desperate avoidance, of all the young women they meet�which is, one guesses, only incidentally what Pieper had in mind when he declared leisure the basis of culture; civilization can run only so far on light romantic comedy. But there is manifestly some kind of celebration going on in the prose of those characters� author, and the result is the grace of laughter for the reader. Something in Wodehouse�s stories hints at what made David dance before the Ark for the God who gave joy to his youth. And something in his pages suggests �the living God, Who giveth us richly all things to enjoy.�
It�s a little hard to say quite what that something is. Wodehouse may be our best answer to Nietzsche, but he isn�t entirely clear on how Young Men in Spats trumps Thus Spake Zarathustra. But suppose that laughter offers blessed escape for a while from the terrible mattering that possessed modern times. Suppose that Christendom�the deep unity of Western culture through the years�survives best not when it is trying to respond to the relentless thud with which secular history marches, but when it dances a little. And suppose that God�s grace doesn�t dwell just in the tears we shed at the tragedy of the world, but also in the play of comedy. Wodehouse titled one of his best novels Joy in the Morning, after a passage in Psalm 30 that Jeeves quotes to Bertie Wooster: �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.
But don’t take my word for it. Read the whole article. And then go pick up some Wodehouse. I can’t think of a better way to waste an afternoon.
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