Monday, October 7, 2013

Forget Prince Charming - Give Me PSMITH!

I always like to have a book with me at Walt Disney World.

I know.  I'm kinda weird.

Many have been the times when, going through bag check to get into the parks, the security guards have looked at the stack of books and pens and notebooks in my bag and looked at me like I was a crazy person.

*cue the Belle song*

She really is a funny girl, that Emma!

OK, but seriously.  There are so many lovely spots to sit and savor at Walt Disney World, and I think that sitting and savoring is best done with a book!  The resort lobbies...little nooks and corners in the parks...OF COURSE the hammocks at the Polynesian.  I have to have something to read to really enjoy those spaces!

One of my favorite authors to read at Disney is P.G. Wodehouse.

Actually he's one of my favorite authors to read anywhere, but somehow he seems particularly good at Disney.  I always want a book that's happy, not too fluffy, but also not requiring too much attention.  A book that has all that and ALSO Britishness, cups of tea, and men in spats is just about perfect.

I just got a kindle this summer, and though I generally prefer actual books, I did love using it at Disney, because you could get new books with just the click of a button and didn't have to lug them all around with you.  Amazon also has a rather impressive collection of FREE books, amongst them - guess who - P.G. Wodehouse!  I spent much of my reading time during our summer Disney trip in the company of the Wodehouse character Psmith.

PSMITH.  You guys.  Let me tell you about Psmith.

Wodehouse wrote several books about him - a few of them are the free ones - but the very best Psmith work and also one of the best of all Wodehouse works is a book called Leave It to Psmith.

First of all, I should tell you that the P is silent.  As in pterodactyl.  Psmith added it to his name in order to distinguish himself from the other Smiths of the world.  But then he manages to be rather different all on his own.

He's hilarious; he's ridiculous; and he always knows just what to do.  Take this scene for instance.  Our heroine, Eve Halliday, has just arrived at a British manor house to start her work cataloging the library.  Eve and Psmith are standing outside the library windows, wondering if the efficient Baxter, who Eve needs to check in with, is inside.

"I can't announce myself by shouting to him."

"Assuredly not," said Psmith.  "No need for that at all.  Leave it to me."

He stooped and picked up a  large flower-pot which stood under the terrace wall, and before Eve could intervene had tossed it lightly through the open window.  A muffled thud, followed by a sharp exclamation from within, caused a faint smile of gratification to illumine his solemn countenance.  "He is in.  I thought he would be."

Psmith thinks differently from other people, and I like that.  He may be acting on the most outrageous ideas, but they're always harmless, and then he's always so confident.

I sometimes worry about perfectly ordinary things, but Psmith never lets even the most unexpected and extraordinary situations worry him - like when he impersonates a Canadian poet and goes to stay at aforementioned manor house to steal a diamond necklace at the request of the necklace's owner (you really need to read the book).  He's just completely unphased and unstressed.  I love it.  He makes me feel less stressed.

I will admit, it takes a particular kind of humor to get Wodehouse, but it is definitely my kind of humor.  It's not just the humor I love, though.  Wodehouse weaves such gorgeous writing in as well:

Market Blandings had a comforting air of having been exactly the same for centuries.  Troubles might vex the generations it housed, but they did not worry that lichened church with its sturdy four-square tower, nor those red-roofed shops, nor the age-old inns whose second storeys bulged so comfortably out over the pavements...Nothing was modern in it except the moving-picture house - and even that called itself an Electric Theatre, and was ivy-covered and surmounted by stone gables. partly I'm sure it's the picture of a lovely English village that is appealing to me there, but I also think that's just beautiful.  Wodehouse's (and Psmith's) observations aren't necessarily about any deep or solemn things, but they're so evocative.  When Psmith meets Eve at the train station, he says to her:

"You have just stepped off the train after a four hour journey, and you are as fresh and blooming as - if I may coin a simile - a rose.  how do you do it?  When I arrived I was deep in alluvial deposits, and have only just managed to scrape them off."

I definitely know the feeling of feeling all tired and weary and grimy after a long day of traveling, and I think "deep in alluvial deposits" describes it perfectly.  LOL.

Last but certainly not least, on top of the Britishness and the humor and the writing, there is a wonderful romance between Psmith and Eve.

There are three romantic scenes in literature and film which, to my imagination, are the loveliest and the most impressive and the sweetest and the best:

(1) Captain Wentworth's letter in Jane Austen's Persuasion.  "A word, a look, will decide if I enter your father's house this evening - or never."  OH MY GOODNESS - I think my heart skips a beat every single time I reread that part of the book.

(2) When Prince Phillip surprises Aurora in Sleeping Beauty, so that suddenly she's not just dancing with her woodland friends, she's dancing with her PRINCE and they sing Once Upon a Dream.  AHHH.  It's so completely adorable.

The third moment can be found, as you may have guessed, in the pages of Leave It to Psmith.  A sudden shower has trapped Eve underneath an awning.  Psmith, who has never seen her before and hasn't even met her yet, sees her from the window of his club, and decides he needs to come to her rescue.

He left the window of the smoking-room, and having made his way with a smooth dignity to the club's cloak-room, proceeded to submit a row of umbrellas to close inspection.  He was not easy to satisfy...Quite good umbrellas, but not fit for this special service.  At length, however, he found a beauty, and a gentle smile flickered across his solemn face...

"Whose," he inquired of the attendant, "is this?"

"Belongs to the Honourable Mr. Walderwick, sir."

"Ah!" said Psmith tolerantly.

He tucked the umbrella under his arm and went out.

Meanwhile, Eve Halliday...continued to think hard thoughts of the English climate and to inspect the sky in the hope of detecting a spot of blue.  She was engaged in this cheerless occupation when at her side a voice spoke.

"Excuse me!"  A hatless young man was standing beside her, holding an umbrella.  He was a striking-looking young man, very tall, very thin, and very well dressed.  In his right eye there was a monocle, and through this he looked down at her with a grave friendliness.  He said nothing further, but, taking her fingers, clasped them round the handle of the umbrella, which he had obligingly opened, and then with a courteous bow proceeded to dash with long strides across the road, disappearing through the doorway...

A good many surprising things had happened to Eve since first she had come to live in London, but nothing quite so surprising a s this.

I can't even really describe why I love this scene so much, but I just do.  It's so simple, and Psmith is so chivalrous - he scarcely says a word to Eve, just gives her the umbrella and dashes away (but of course they are destined to meet again!).  And I don't condone theft, but it's pretty funny the way he just goes and pinches the nicest umbrella he can find - and doesn't deny it or anything.

{A Psmith Homage from Pinterest}

I could go on quoting my favorite snippets, but then I would probably end up quoting the whole book!  You have to read the rest to really fall in love with Psmith, but he's so quirky and unique and charming.  I know that by the time I closed the pages, I was saying to myself: "Forget Prince Charming - I want a Psmith!" ;)


  1. Oh, I ALWAYS bring a book to WDW. It can come in terribly handy when staking out a spot for the parade. Terry Pratchett's my go-to, but I always have my nook app on my phone, in case!

    1. Haha, so glad I'm not the only one! They are great for lines and the inevitable Disney waiting times. I have the kindle app on the strawberry is great to have whatever book you want right at your fingertips!

  2. Thanks for posting this! These are the books I read also! never read this one!! I have read some of his other ones though... do you like cozy British Mysteries? If so, you need to FB message me~ I have found some TREASURES!!!!! Will be downloading this today~ I too love to take books on Vacation and have an actual book~but some of these old books and old mysteries I can't find,so ebooks to the rescue!!!

    1. Awww, so glad you liked it girl! I will definitely have to message you - I've seen the cozy mysteries at my bookstore, but haven't read any yet. They sound great though!

  3. I sometimes wish that we were good friends in real life during school so that you could inspire me to be more literate at an earlier age! The only reason I've read as much classical stuff as I have is because I have my BA in English. Other than that, I do LOVE reading, but I don't read Austen and Wodehouse like you do, but your posts inspire me to pick them up. I still haven't yet Pride and Prejudice, and I promise I will!

    The reason I had to comment is that I've heard of Wodehouse because Rory mentioned it on Gilmore Girls. You remind me of the literary/academic part of that character (not the other things because I'm not a fan of how her character developed around season 5).

    Out of curiosity, do you read the popular novels too like Harry Potter and Hunger Games?

    1. Awww, Rachel, I would've loved to have a friend like you in school too!! I did not meet many kindred souls in high school, but I can tell you would've been one. :) I watched Gilmore Girls - and I totally agree, Rory went south, but she was so sweet at first.

      I have read Harry Potter (not a *huge* fan, but I do like them) and Hunger Games. Hunger Games I didn't exactly like - it's so violent - but it was really interesting to analyze the writing and the story and try to figure out how it sucks you in, because it definitely did! I'm am so old-fashioned with my reading, though, it's really bad. It's just hard to find modern books that are nice, if that makes sense. lol!

    2. I'm a fan of Harry Potter although a late one because it was only after all the movies came out that I actually decided to pick up a book. My cousin insisted that I read them before watching the movies, which is usually what I prefer to do anyway (well, except for Lord of the Rings because I saw Fellowship of the Ring first). I'm amazed at how all 7 books connect even with minor things mentioned in the first book. I can't imagine how long it took to outline the entire series.

      Hunger Games was one of those quick reads. It was the one book that a bunch of my students really devoured (on their own, haha, not as required reading from me). It clearly wasn't the best writing in the world, and yes, the violence is a bit much, but there's a part of me that really enjoys popular young adult fiction, haha. I blame it on having been a middle school English Language Arts teacher for 6 years. The only other book that they also really enjoyed was Beastly, which we read for a makeshift book club.

      Teaching is also why I have a ton of middle school aged novels in my collection because each year the teachers would make up a wish list from the Scholastic book fair for parents and students to purchase for us. Based on that, I don't know if you'd still consider me as literate, haha. I love reading, but the things I choose to read or have to read are for a younger audience. But as I said earlier, I just get inspired to read more classics from your blog posts! I also love how you're not the only reader in the family. I remember all your earlier TRs when you'd mention your brothers reading too.