Saturday, April 5, 2014

Meet Mr. Mulliner: Book Review

I've written about the hilarious British author P.G. Wodehouse before (remember his swoon-worthy character PSmith?) - but the wonderful thing about Wodehouse is that he has plenty of different characters and different worlds in his many novels.  I've recently been reading another favorite title - Meet Mr. Mulliner - and thought I'd spread the bookish pixie dust. ;)

Each chapter in Meet Mr. Mulliner is its own story, but they're all told by the same character - Mr. Mulliner - who likes to sit in his favorite corner of the bar-parlor at the Anglers' Rest and regale his friends (or whoever he can find) with the sometimes quite incredible exploits of his family members.

I wish I could go hang out at the Anglers' Rest some evening.  All the stories that get told sound pretty funny.  Here's a sample conversation:

"Yes, gentleman," the man said, "Shakespeare was right.  There's a divinity that shapes our ends, rough-hew them how we will."

We nodded.  He had been speaking of a favourite dog of his which, entered recently by some error in a local cat show, had taken first prize in the class for short-haired tortoiseshells; and we all though the quotation well-chosen and apposite.

"There is, indeed," said Mr. Mulliner.  "A rather similar thing happened to my nephew Lancelot."

In the nightly reunions in the bar-parlour of the Anglers' Rest we have been trained to believe almost anything of Mr. Mulliner's relatives, but this, we felt, was a little too much.

"You mean to say your nephew Lancelot took a prize at a cat show?"

"No, no," said Mr. Mulliner hastily.  "Certainly not..."

And he then goes on to tells Lancelot's tale, which, in typical Wodehouse fashion, is fabulously outrageous and hilarious.

I love how Wodehouse manages to nonchalantly drop in big words and quotes from Shakespeare and classic literature.  I wish I knew half as much poetry by heart as his characters seem to know...even if I misquoted it as they do. ;)

Each chapter in Meet Mr. Mulliner seems to be better than the next.  There's Frederick, (suffering from a broken heart after his fiance dumped him) who gets guilted into paying his old nanny a visit.  What he doesn't realize that Jane (the ex-fiance) is paying a visit at the same time - Nurse Wilkes was her nanny too.  When they start to argue, Wilkes locks them in a closet, where they have a chance to patch things up...

"I don't see what right you have to criticize me," said Jane.

"Who criticized you?"

"You did."


"Just then."

"I call Heaven to witness," cried Frederick Mulliner, "that not by so much as a single word have I hinted at my opinion that your conduct is the vilest and most revolting that has even been drawn to my attention.  I never so much as suggested that your revelation had shocked me to the depths of my soul."

"Yes, you did.  You sniffed."

I simply adore Wodehouse.  And in Meet Mr. Mulliner he's at his best.

After all, Meet Mr. Mulliner has Buck-U-Uppo.

Buck-U-Uppo is a wonderful, strengthening health tonic invented by one of the Mulliners.  It will "cause the most timid elephant to trumpet loudly and charge the fiercest tiger without qualm."  It makes you more confident and assertive...but if you take too much by mistake, it might make you rather too confident.

You definitely have to read the book to hear the whole adventure; it involves a bishop, a headmaster, a statue, pink paint, and pretending to be cats.

Wodehouse novels are the equivalent of literary Buck-U-Uppo.  If you're feeling cross or frustrated when you pick one up, you won't by the time you put it down - you'll be too busy laughing hysterically. :)

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