"Books that Changed My Life" is somewhat of a restricting topic to write about until one realizes that anything and everything changes one's life. If you hadn't taken that way home tonight, or So-and-So hadn't called and told you this or that, how different would your life be? Real different! Way different! So under that rubric I have consented to reveal even more of my thinking on short stories. The book that changed my life so much that I am now going to write about is The World of Mr Mulliner by P.G. Wodehouse. This is an Omnibus book of short stories.
Mr. Mulliner was a character PG Wodehouse, or "Peej" as he was known to his intimates ( fter he was knighted, "Sir Peej") used to introduce his short stories, much like The Oldest Member in The Golf Omnibus I reviewed last time. Yes, I know I said that changed my life too, but a lot of things changed my life. You wouldn't know, for instance to look at me that I was once a tiny child but I can assure you it's the truth. "I know I was writing stories when I was five. I don't know what I did before that. Just loafed I suppose." P. G. Wodehouse.
Now that wasn't the best quote he ever came up with but the one I could come up with most apropos to the issue in a short period of time. Trying to follow the format, you see, and it absolutely demands a quote in the 2d paragraph and there I was talking about children so I thought I'd just bung that one in. So now comes Paragraph 3 and the punchline---why it changed my life. This is mandatory so I really want to get it right: it has to have changed my life, no ifs, ands or buts about it. All I can say is that if reading a story about a man trying to cure his stammering by being chased hither and yon over the English countryside by a crowd of angry peasants with pitchforks after locking the Emperor of Abyssinia in a train station utility closet is not enough to change your, life then not much will.
It's surely changed my life anyway. As soon as I read "The Truth About George" I was chuckling so often I got a promotion at work. After reading Unpleasantness At Bludleigh Court I had such a cheerful, satisfied look on my face I was almost elected Mayor of a small Oregon town. After reading Something Squishy I had such a grin I was offered a partnership in the 2d biggest plumbing supply store in my county. Once on a train, upon reading The Passing Of Ambrose, I guffawed so loudly and slapped my seat companion so hard on the back that the piece of baguette he was choking on, unbeknownst to me, flew out of his mouth and it turned out to be a rich man who later adopted me. All these wonderful things and more can happen to you when you crack the covers of this tome. Then again, I know someone who never read this book and he was hit by a truck.
Wodehouse invented Mr Mulliner as a tool to introduce his stories. Mr Mulliner's stories are always about his relatives, which he always speaks of in superlatives, and their various adventures in life. He has a huge and varied family, always a cousin, brother or nephew to get into and out of jams. The story always starts with Mr. Mulliner telling the story in The Angler's Rest, a pub frequented by other fishermen, identified by their drinks, such as Sherry and Angostura, Pint of Bitters, Small Bass, and Gin and Italian Vermouth. Miss Postlethwaite, the barmaid is always there to refill the glass and throw out a topic if the conversation lags.
The situations the Mulliner family get into and out of are positively boffo. From Anselm Mulilner the private detective playing Merry Monarchs with Sir Bransom Brangbolt to Eustace Mulliner dodging threats from Orlando Witherspoon and the slings and arrows of the Dumb Chums Society, from Mervyn Mulliner on a knightly quest seeking strawberries in December to prove his love for Clarice Mallaby to Cyril Mulliner stealing Lady Bassett's mystery story to force her to let him marry her daughter Amelia, from Charlotte Mulliner the Poetess winging Colonel Sir Francis Pashley-Drake en deshabille at Bludleigh Court with an air rifle to Augustine Mulliner the Curate providing Mulliner's Buck-U-Uppo to the Bishop and his wife before the fancy dress ball--the Mulliners are getting into and out of some of the most outrageously funny circumstances the written word can provide.
This is escapism at its finest. If curling up with a good book and running away from the world attracts you as much as it does me, this is the one. Come on down to the Angler's Rest, wink at Miss Postlethwaite and order your favorite drink, then get set for a story. Great Caution must be exercised not to read all the stories at once. This is a good bathroom book, depending, of course, on how long you like to sit in the bathroom.
In the words of The Master himself in the Foreword: " A word of warning. As regards the medium dose for an adult, I would recommend, as I did in my Preface to "The World Of Jeeves," not more than one or perhaps three stories a day, taken at breakfast or before retiring. Don't try to read the whole book straight through just so as to be able to say you've done it. Nervous people and invalids will of course be guided by their doctor's advice." PG Wodehouse