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Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud

The Heart of a Goof - P.G. Wodehouse Rating: 4* of fiveThe Book Description: "Golf is the Great Mystery. Like some capricious goddess, it bestows favors with what would appear an almost fat-headed lack of method and discrimination." These words, uttered by "The Oldest Member," set the stage for a romp around the greens only Wodehouse could have conjured up. In nine stories Wodehouse describes not only the fates of the goofs who have allowed golf "to eat into their souls like some malignant growth" but also the impact of the so-called game on courtship, friendship, and business relationships.This volume includes "The Heart of a Goof," "High Stakes," "Keeping in with Vosper," "Chester Forgets Himself," "The Magic Plus Fours," "The Awakening of Rollo Podmarsh," "Rodney Fails to Qualify," "Jane Gets off the Fairway," and "The Purfication of Rodney Spelvin." My Review: I bow to no man in my appreciation of Wodehouse, even when the subject of his talent is the shudder-and-narcolepsy inducing topic of golf. (Seriously, have you ever watched golf? It is unspeakably dull...almost as boring as cricket, which is the emperor of all screamingly tedious pastimes. Both feature commentators explaining the goings-on in such hushed, reverential tones that they rival nature documentary narrators for comatosity. The mind boggles and the spirit quails before the notion of viewing the “action” live in either case. Has the World Court heard about this? Seems they need to pep up their torture prosecutors, haven't heard of a single case against golfers or cricketeers.)Where was I? Oh, Wodehouse and his brilliance. The stories in this collection are uniformly amusing, with moments of laugh-out-loud funny. I chose this moment from “Chester Forgets Himself,” a tale of a young man of fine sensibilities and a distinct inability to let loose his baser instincts in cursing the duffers who infest golfing:...there was something particularly irritating about the methods of the Wrecking Crew {four bad late-life converts to golfing}. They tried so hard that it seemed almost inconceivable that they should be so slow.“They are all respectable men,” {the Oldest Member} said, “and were, I believe, highly thought of in their respective businesses. But on the links I admit they are a trial.”“They are the direct lineal descendants of the Gadarene swine,” said Chester firmly. “Every time they come out I expect to see them rush down the hill from the first tee and hurl themselves into the lake at the second.” (p75, 1956 Herbert Jenkins Autograph edition)If that doesn't raise a smile, or as in my case cause a laugh, avoid the book, and indeed possibly Wodehouse. He's like this a lot. The Oldest Member, a stock character of great and enduring popularity...the tedious old buttonholer in a prominently placed chair who will talk your ear off about nothing much...is so marvelously played for laughs that he's a National Treasure. The Oldest Member always has a story to match your circumstances, explain your problem, soothe your temper. That is, if one isn't whipped into frothing frenzied hatred by the old boy, as quite a lot of 21st-century people are.But if one can slow down a bit, forget Adam Sandler's insulting humor or Jim Carrey's manic muggings for a moment, there's a humor in here that might just wind a tendril of affection around one's heart. It's a humor of silly and sly and slow genesis, from subjects of daily familiarity. Not the butlers and not the expensive golf clubs, no, those are the set decorations. Wodehouse's humor is about what kind of people there are in our lives. Old people who want to tell you things to help you, but go on and on. Young people in love with each other and not knowing how to say so to each other. Harried strivers working the angles and never quite seeing the forest for all those pesky trees.Wodehouse knew them, smiled at them, made them into figures of fun, and never once insulted them. I love that, I treasure that, I batten on it. Given the right mind-set, maybe you can too. What have you got to lose? A half-hour reading a story? Try “The Heart of a Goof,” first of this collection, and if there are no smiles, no chortles, no guffaws, return the book to the library and pass on to your next read. You won't be harmed, and you might be enchanted.