March 08, 2008

Sam the Sudden and The Birthday of they World

In the last week or two, I read Sam the Sudden, by PJ Wodehouse, and The Birthday of the Universe and Other Stories by Ursula Le Guin.

Sam the Sudden is first book I have read by Wodehouse, the author of the Jeeves books, and it was a lot of fun. I have had the book on my bookshelf for about ten years. I think I picked it up for free outside a Friends of the Library store. It might have been given away for free because the back cover is dirty. In the story, Sam falls in love with a girl he sees on a gravy-stained poster. After reading that passage, I began to suspect that the junk on the back cover of the book could possibly be gravy. Twenty- or thirty-year-old gravy.

The other unpleasant aspect of the book is that the type size was very small. That is the major reason that it took me ten years to decide to read the book. Some people criticize book buying on the internet because it takes the serendipity out of book buying, the chance find of an old book at a used book store. If buying a book and reading it is too crassly commercial, I know how to bring the serendipity back into book buying. After buying a book, just place it on your bookshelf and forget about it. After the book has aged five to fifteen years, it is ripe for a serendipitous read.

Sam the Sudden is a comedy. I am usually worried about reading an old comedy because I don't know if the humor has aged well. Fortunately, even though the book was first published in 1925, it was very funny. Here are a couple of jokes:

"If you really want to know what happened, I'll tell you. I did not kiss that ghastly Blair pipsqueak. She kissed me."
"She kissed me," repeated Sam doggedly. "I had been laying it on pretty thick about how much I admired her work, and suddenly she said 'Oh, you dear boy!' and flung her loathsome arms round my neck. What could I do? I might have uppercut her as she bored in, but, short of that, there wasn't any way of stopping her."


"Well, it's like this: I saw her mother yesterday."
"Ah! That is a treat I have not had."
"Do you think girls get like their mothers, Sam?"
Hash shivered.
"Well, the 'ole thing is, when I'm away from the girl I get to thinking about her."
"Very properly," said Sam. "Absence, it has been well said, makes the heart grow fonder."
"Thinking of her mother, I mean."
"Oh, of her mother?"
"And then I wish I was well out of it all, you understand. But then again, when I'm settin' with 'er with my arm round 'er little waist--"
" You are still speaking of the mother?"
"No, the girl."

The other book that I read was a book of short stories and a novella by Ursula Le Guin. This is about the ninth book that I have read by Le Guin. All of them I have read so far have been good, but after reading the first couple of stories in this book, the idea finally cemented in my mind that this is an author whose works I definitely intend to read completely. The stories were inventive and logical, and more importantly, she always has something interesting to say about being a human

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