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Wodehouse: A Life


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About the Author

Robert McCrum is the associate editor of The Observer and lives in London with his wife, Sarah Lyall. His books include the bestselling The Story of English, My Year Off, Wodehouse: A Life, and Globish.


McCrum, literary editor of the Observer (London), contends that P.G. Wodehouse's contributions to American and English literature have been largely overlooked. While one could challenge his conclusion that Wodehouse can be favorably compared with Jane Austen, McCrum does offer a thorough and readable account of his subject's long life and prolific literary career. McCrum takes the reader from Wodehouse's school days at Dulwich to his successful work as a Broadway lyricist and a master storyteller of Edwardian times who gave us Bertie Wooster and Jeeves to his darkest hour during World War II and final years of semi-exile in America. He offers his most spirited and convincing analysis in countering accusations that Wodehouse knowingly collaborated with the Nazis; his interpretation is entirely consistent with the portrait of "Plummie" as a shy man who dealt with painful realities by avoidance and by devotion to the works of his imagination. Though McCrum comes across as a bit of an apologist for Wodehouse, this work is thoroughly researched and well written; it will please Wodehouse aficionados and general readers alike. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 7/04.] Anthony J. Pucci, Notre Dame H.S., Elmira, NY Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

"For as long as P.G. Wodehouse is read, this will be the seminal work of reference, the indispensable vade mecum. In other words-as the Master might say-'ripping.'" -- John le Carre
"McCrum . . . has written a biography that, if the subject were a general or a politician, would be dubbed 'magisterial.' This is a magisterial biography: disinterested, but never detached, and always intriguing. Under the kindly and scholarly tutelage of McCrum, you might want to explore here the Wodehouse genius, the inconsistencies and downright silliness in the man's life." -- Frank McCourt - Globe and Mail
"[An] absorbing and generous biography, which now takes its rightful place as 'the life.'" -- Christopher Buckley - Los Angeles Times Book Review
"This book is a triumph. Not only should all P. G. Wodehouse fans read it, but it is a masterly picture of twentieth-century history." -- A. N. Wilson

In his authoritative biography of P.G. Wodehouse (1881-1975), British author McCrum (My Year Off), literary editor of the Observer, rightly identifies the crisis over the great, if na?ve, English humorist's 1941 radio broadcasts from Germany (which led to accusations of his being a "Nazi stooge") as "the defining moment of Wodehouse's life." While the broadcasts and their aftermath get the most scrutiny, McCrum ably surveys a 75-year writing career that began in 1900 and ended only with Wodehouse's death at 93. He succinctly covers all the major topics-Wodehouse's creation of the immortal Jeeves and Wooster; his triumphs as a lyricist for the musical theater; his frustrating stints as a scriptwriter in Hollywood; his tax troubles; his love of animals; his post-WWII U.S. exile; his long and successful, if apparently sexless, marriage. McCrum is franker on this latter subject than previous biographers and also dispels a myth or two. While Wodehouse largely left his financial affairs to his wife, Ethel, "in important literary business Wodehouse was always clinically decisive." When his new literary agent, Paul Reynolds Jr., wasn't successful, he fired him. Earlier studies have tended to be partisan or personal and stronger on some aspects of Wodehouse's varied life than others. For balance and readability, this popular biography, like Jeeves, stands alone. 16 pages of illus. not seen by PW. (Nov. 29) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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