Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A Snail with Character and Two Dull Young Men

I probably post more quotes from Wodehouse novels on my site than from any other author, but I find them endlessly amusing. In this case, the excerpt comes from the excellent Sam the Sudden, one of my new favorites. Wodehouse has a gift for metaphor, as I've mentioned before, and he also attributes hilariously introspective personality traits to animals and inanimate objects. In this case, I offer you a simile about a dog named Amy, followed by possibly the most ever written about a snail in Western literature:

"Like Niobe, she [Amy the dog] had mourned and would not be comforted. But now, to judge from her manner and a certain jauntiness in her walk, she had completely resigned herself to the life of exile."

"By nature sociable, she [Amy the dog] yearned for company, and for some minutes roamed the garden in quest of it. She found a snail under a laurel bush, but snails are reserved creatures, self-centered and occupied with their own affairs, and this one cut Amy dead, retreating into its shell with a frigid aloofness which made anything in the nature of camaraderie out of the question."

Another of Wodehouse's gifts is in conveying a character's manner of speech secondhand. In this case, the omniscient narrator describes the comments of two "rabbit-faced" young men at a dinner party.

"'I gave her a plot for a story,' said Sam.

One of the rabbit-faced young men said that he could never understand how fellows--or women, for that matter--thought up ideas for stories--or plays, for the matter of that--or, as a matter of fact, any sort of ideas, for that matter.

'This,' Sam explained, 'was something that actually happened--to a friend of mine.'

The other rabbit-faced young man said that something extremely rummy had once happened to a pal of his. He had forgotten what it was, but it had struck him at the time as distinctly rummy."


Jackamo said...

Still laughing...

Stephanie said...

"Like Niobe, she [Amy the dog] had mourned and would not be comforted"

It's interesting that he goes for the classical allusion, rather than the Biblical. Someone (who, I wonder?) has remarked on the lack of spiritual life in Wodehouse novels. There are certainly priests, but no spirituality. Perhaps for him, the humor is itself a spiritual act. (Like Mozart?)