20 maart 2012

Wodehouse: Summer Lightning

Doorgaans zag de Britse schrijver P.G. Wodehouse (1881-1975) geen reden om zijn romans in te leiden met een voorwoord, maar áls hij het deed, was het raak.
A certain critic – for such men, I regret to say, do exist – made the nasty remark about my last novel that it contained ‘all the old Wodehouse characters under different names’. He has probably by now been eaten by bears, like the children who made mock of the prophet Elisha: but if he still survives he will not be able to make a similar charge against Summer Lightning. With my superior intelligence, I have outgeneralled the man this time by putting in all the old Wodehouse characters under the same names. Pretty silly it will make him feel, I rather fancy.
   This story is a sort of Old Home Week for my – if I may coin a phrase – puppets. Hugo Carmody and Ronnie Fish appeared in Money for Nothing. Pilbeam was in Bill the Conqueror. And the rest of them, Lord Emsworth, the Efficient Baxter, Butler Beach, and the others have all done their bit before in Something Fresh and Leave it to Psmith. Even Empress of Blandings, that pre-eminent pig, is coming up for the second time, having made her debut in a short story called ‘Pig-hoo-oo-ey!’, which, with other Blandings Castle stories too fascinating to mention, will eventually appear in volume form. 
   [...]
   A word about the title. It is related of Thackeray that, hitting upon Vanity Fair after retiring to rest one night, he leaped out of bed and ran seven times round the room, shouting at the top of his voice. Oddly enough, I behaved in exactly the same way when I thought of Summer Lightning. I recognized it immediately as the ideal title for a novel. My exuberance has been a little diminished since by the discovery that I am not the only one who thinks highly of it. Already I have been informed that two novels with the same name have been published in England, and my agent in America cables to say that three have recently been placed on the market in the United States. As my story has appeared in serial form under its present label, it is too late to alter it now. I can only express the modest hope that this story will be considered worthy of inclusion in the list of the Hundred Best Books Called Summer Lightning.
(P.G. Wodehouse, Summer Lightning (1929), gecit. n. de Penguin-editie uit 1962, pp. 7-8.)

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