Meet Mr. Mulliner by P.G. Wodehouse
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I've read so many P.G. Wodehouse books now that, without looking, I can guess when each book was written. It's my parlor trick/super power.
Now, you may say, "Koivu, no one cares. And furthermore, you're an idiot." However, when you consider that Wodehouse wrote over 70 novels (not to mention dozens of plays, story collections, movie scripts, and whathaveyous) over the course of some 70ish years, that seems a tad more impressive, does it not? It does not, you say? Well then, sod off, my friend, sod off!
Wodehouse's oeuvre is extensive to say the least, and his style of writing progressed from decade to decade in the early going. To take a general view, he started with light-comedy romances and gradually moved into comedy-heavy romances, until finally settling with full-on comedies with romance touched upon as a plot device. It was a progression that made sense. In the 1910s-20s, when his career took off (he started with off-time writing earlier while working as a banker) ladies loved the dime-store romance novels. Eventually that wore off as the saccharine-sweet drippy-lovers stuff ran its course. Being witty and not especially deep and brooding, comedy was his only recourse.
The transition period is an interesting one for Wodehousophiles, and that's where Meet Mr. Mulliner falls in. This 1927 collection of short stories, based around tales told at a local pub about a family of young men named Mulliner, is fun and light-hearted as almost all of Wodehouse's work, but you can see him shedding some of the sappy stuff in favor of the funny. This is a relief. Even if you're a romance fan, the old "Jane...", "James...", "Jane!", "James!" replete with longing looks routine is so outdated as to be unintentionally hilarious...for a moment, then the reading of it gets tedious right quick. I can take a bit of the lovey dovey, but I'd rather be slapping my knees. Meet Mr. Mulliner drops right in between there. Maybe I never slapped a knee, but the corners of my mouth raised up some now and again, while my brow lightened.
Is it worth a read? Only if you're already a Wodehouse fan. I wouldn't recommend this otherwise. Having said that, if you are a Wodehouse fan and you've exhausted all of the Jeeves and Blandings stuff, get on this Mulliner thing!
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