Honeysuckle Cottage by P.G. Wodehouse, 1925
The magic trick:
A hilarious premise
I read a lot of short stories for this magic tricks blog, and the vast majority are serious. Some are downright somber, but nearly all are working pretty hard to make an artistic statement. Which is great. Let me clear, I love the artistic statement. But every so often, it is nice to retreat from art into a world of entertainment, the world of honeysuckle cottage.
So that’s where we’re going this week. It’s my birthday week. P.G. Wodehouse is my favorite writer. Let’s go.
Wodehouse apparently considers this among his very best stories. I apparently consider Wodehouse to be a poor judge of his own work. I liked it, but the joke density wasn’t up to his normal very high level. The premise is the funniest part: a house haunted by its former inhabitant’s passion for sentimental romance novels and the havoc it wreaks on its new tenant, the author of hardboiled crime thrillers. I’ve always found Wodehouse’s plots to be secondary, though. It’s the language and the punchlines that keep you coming back, not the storylines. Not a good sign then when the plot is funnier than the jokes.
Still, these are pointless criticisms. It’s only a minor disappointment when compared to Wodehouse’s other work. In the general world of short stories, this is hilarious stuff. And that’s quite a trick on Wodehouse’s part.
“Oh, but you are! Through that window it gave me quite a start. You were so exactly like Claude Masterson in Heather o’ the Hills.”
“I have not read Heather o’ the Hills,” said James, with a shudder.
“He was very strong and quiet, with deep, dark, sad eyes.”
James did not explain that his eyes were sad because her society gave him a pain in the neck. He merely laughed scornfully.
“So now, I suppose,” he said, a car will come and knock you down and I shall carry you gently into the house and lay you… Lookout!” he cried.
It was too late. She was lying in a little huddled heap at his feet. Round the corner a large automobile had come bowling, keeping with an almost affected precision to the wrong side of the road.