The Library and P. G. Wodehouse
But little did I realize all the while, my true vocation was sneaking up on me. I think your true vocation often sneaks up on you. There isn’t a point in a guy’s life when he decides he’s going to be a Bowery bum. One day he finds himself sitting in the cart and everyone has gone to work. Next day he finds himself for the first time in his life sitting on the curb. Everyone’s walking by him. It just sneaks up.
At this time, all of us kids in freshman high school were reading serious books, official books. We had a reading list that included such beauties as Wuthering Heights, such unforgettable stuff as Silas Marner, Lady of the Lake, great stuff like that. I think one of the reasons why kids hate reading most of all their lives, is the stuff that they have to read. Oh, did you ever try to finish a book by Edith Wharton? Anybody who does that could well have been in their time a six-day bike racer had they stuck with that too. But there I am. I’m not anti-intellectual, but when you’re fourteen years old and suddenly find yourself deep in Henry James, that is heavy going. The mire and the muck get rather deep.
I’m sitting there in the library and it’s a hot spring day. I could hear the ping-ponging of tennis balls out somewhere on a court. I took this book off the shelf and it was the same author that guy had told me about. The same author who had done nothing for me weeks, months, years before! I began reading this thing. At first I sort of went, yeah—yeah—yeah—and then it hit me. My god, have you ever been so embarrassed by something that hit you when you were sitting in a crowd? I started laughing in the study hall and I couldn’t stop laughing.
I was laughing like I was out of my mind! And people started looking over, “What’s the matter?” And I could not stop laughing. I just couldn’t! The hero of the book is climbing down a drainpipe of a house where he is spending the weekend, and he is bored out of his skull. Suddenly, below him, he sees this police officer who goes “Hoy! Hoy! Hoy there!” He tries to climb back up, the rain is coming down, the officer keeps saying “Hoy! Hoy! Hoy there!” And at that point it just hit me deeply. Every third or fourth line just absolutely cracked me up. And I was about fourteen or fifteen.
The character was Bertie Wooster and the book was Leave it to Jeeves and it blew my mind! I enjoyed Leave it to Jeeves so much that the next one I read was Leave it to Psmith and from that time on I was dead. The author, of course, was P. G. Wodehouse and I read everything this guy wrote. From that time on, to me, writing—as a writer—writing and performing has always been directed toward being funny.
“From my earliest years I had always wanted to be a writer. It was not that I had any particular message for humanity. I am still plugging away and not the ghost of one so far, so it begins to look as though, unless I suddenly hit mid-season form in my eighties, humanity will remain a message short.” ―P.G. Wodehouse [P.G. Wodehouse: Portrait of a Master by David A Jasen, New York, Mason & Lipscomb Publishers 1974]
In addition to outdoor creations such as Stonehenge, some great paintings and sculptures have also been co-opted by weather and people so that they are no longer visible unsullied as they once wore.
Three’s a crowd.
BOTTICELLI’s BIRTH OF VENUS
Birthing a la smart phone in Florence.
Those of us who visited “Guernica” dozens of times at New York’s Museum of Modern Art were the lucky ones. When I first saw it after it had been sent to Spain, it was shown behind bullet-proof glass and with armed guards (for fear of old Franco-philes). Sorta took the esthetic edge off the experience. It can now be seen in Madrid unencumbered by glass, moldings, and Guardia Civil.
It’s only right and proper to mention that Michelangelo’s “David,” until it was brought inside to the Galleria dell’ Accademia for safety in the 19th century, had been outside in Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio for hundreds of years. (Those who think they see the real thing now in the open Palazzo see only a replica.) So, many deluded ones have never even seen the real thing. (A cover story in the NYT Magazine of August 21, 2016 notes, among many other unpleasant facts, that “David” has possibly dangerous cracks in the ankles!) As for those who have seen the true creative hand of Michelangelo in the Accademia, neither I nor anyone else now alive has seen it where it should be truly appreciated—out there with the destructive rain, snow, pollution, falling furniture, and pooping birds. Sometimes preservation is a necessary evil.