Plum’s Golf Omnibus

P.G. WodehouseReading and writing are two of my favorite things. I have been reading voraciously for many years, but am very new to blogging. (So, apparently, is this spell-checker, which inexplicably does not recognize “blogs” or “blogging”.) One of the things I like about being here is that it feels as if I am part of a community of readers: readers are attracted to blogs. And one of the rewards of reading blogs is the opportunity to encounter something new. Today I’d like to talk about one of my favorite writers, P.G. Wodehouse. If you have not read any of his work yet, you should give him a try. (Or read one of my stories; see below.) His first name is Pelham, a name that is perhaps a bit unfortunate, and not what I would name my son. If you say it quickly you come up with his nickname, Plum. His last name is not pronounced like you would think, because it’s pronounced, “would – house”.

Anyway, Wodehouse was a gifted comic writer who wrote nearly a hundred books, many of which are novels and the rest collections of short stories, plus many plays and musicals. Now, don’t screw up your face in disgust at the thought of musicals; it’s his novels and short stories I want to tell you about. In my hand today is his prized collection of golf short stories, The Golf Omnibus. You should run out and buy this 467-page collection boasting 31 short stories, and I’ll tell you why. Plum was crazy about golf, as am I, and loved to play when he could, but on rainy, dismal days like it is today in Edinburgh, he would happily read or write about golf.

An important note is required here to further explain what is meant by ‘golf short story’. These little jewels, averaging about fifteen pages, are primarily about people, but set against a backdrop of the greatest game. People fall in love, form lasting friendships, leave the office early to play golf, and steal your girl; there are lovable and deplorable people in these stories, just like people you know. There is something in each story that will appeal to anyone who likes to read; I bet, and I taught statistics for over ten years, that you will enjoy these stories even if you don’t play golf.

All the stories contain characters who love the game, and some play thirty-six holes a day, but not everyone is a golfer. And the most important themes are those you would find in other short story collections; it’s just that much of the action takes place on golf courses, in clubhouse bars, locker rooms and pro shops. A central character is The Oldest Member, a lovable old geezer who has been around forever. He’s the guy who was a member of the country club back when the protagonists’ grandfathers were members. A charming fact is that since The Oldest Member — and we never hear his real name — has been around for so long, he has most likely changed the diapers of the younger characters, which allows him such great intimacy with them, that they confide in him. I think that at certain ages we have trouble talking to our parents about sensitive subjects; in my turbulent teens I was able to open up to my best friend’s parents next door, because I felt I could talk to them about things that were somehow too uncomfortable to discuss with my mom & dad.

A typical plot line consists in a couple of young golfers who are romantically involved. Something happens to upset the relationship; a new seductress arrives on the scene, or something occurs to disrupt their happiness. One of the lovers will come looking for advice from the wise Oldest Member, who is most likely in his rocking chair on the porch of the club, where he can look out on the course and watch people play. Young people, being in a hurry, want a short answer, but as The Oldest Member comes from the teach-them-how-to-fish school, his method is to tell them a story like it was a parable.

The one seeking advice too late realizes the wise one is about to launch into one of his fables, and tries to duck out. But by then The Oldest Member has grabbed the unenlightened one by the wrist and is guiding him or her to the chair next to him. What then follows is a story within a story, and soon the reader can do nothing but smile and watch it all unfold. Much of the charm of the stories is in the warmth and humor of the narrative, and the dialog, which both crackles with realism, and soothes like an old sweater. And another part of the fun is guessing how the story will end, because The Oldest Member always does a good job of providing insight into the human condition, and it’s this knowledge that gently shoves the couple back to a happy conclusion. It’s great stuff, and the stories and novels are perfect for rainy day reads, again and again.

The photo above is of Wodehouse at age 23, and he has a relatively small smile. On the back cover of The Golf Omnibus is a photo of him at around age 90. He has the biggest smile you could imagine, perhaps a sign that writing golf stories leads to a long and happy life. I hope so.

If I may indulge in a bit of shameless self-promotion, since this is my blog, please read my golf short story on this site, A Niblick in Time; it’s my homage to Wodehouse. I hope you like it. Thanks for stopping by, and keep your head down.

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2 Responses to “Plum’s Golf Omnibus”

  1. Mark E. Sandsberry Says:

    Love your work, Mr. J. the D., though I hadn’t seen it until yesterday.

    Mark Sandsberry
    Just an FYI, J.D., the link for A Niblick in Time doesn’t work on this, the Plum’s Golf Omnibus page.

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