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Posts Tagged ‘Literature’

I conclude this series in celebration of the 10th anniversary of this blog site! I wish to thank all my followers and readers who have always encouraged me (and keep doing so) in this journey.

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Uncle Fred and Shakespeare

Yet another sterling example of Wodehouse’s use of Shakespeare is found in Uncle Fred in the Springtime (1939).

When Alaric, Duke of Dunstable decides to take Empress of Blandings away from her loving master and get her fit, Lord Emsworth calls in the services of the redoubtable Uncle Fred. Fred arrives full of the joys of spring, with nephew Pongo Twistleton and old friend Polly Pott in tow, and despite the efforts of the efficient Baxter, endeavours to scupper the Duke and bring together a variety of romantic couplings.

The perils of a financial obligation

‘Beginning by quoting from Polonius’s speech to Laertes, which a surprising number of people whom you would not have suspected of familiarity with the writings of Shakespeare seem to know, Mr Pott had gone on to say that lending money always made him feel as if he were rubbing velvet the…

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ashokbhatia

A tide in the affairs of men

Amongst the not-so-delicately-nurtured characters in the Wodehouse canon, there are at least three brainy coves we all admire – Jeeves, Lord Ickenham and Psmith. As to the last one, here is how one of his theories of Life gets bolstered by The Bard.

‘It was one of Psmith’s theories of Life, which he was accustomed to propound to Mike in the small hours of the morning with his feet on the mantelpiece, that the secret of success lay in taking advantage of one’s occasional slices of luck, in seizing, as it were, the happy moment. When Mike, who had had the passage to write out ten times at Wrykyn on one occasion as an imposition, reminded him that Shakespeare had once said something about there being a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, &c., Psmith had acknowledged with…

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ashokbhatia

There are several reasons as to why P G Wodehouse, fondly referred to as Plum, is revered so very highly. For lesser mortals, one of these is surely the manner in which he makes fun of a decadent British aristocracy. He does so by skillfully juxtaposing strict social norms against nonsensical and ridiculous acts which rank rather high on the Goofiness Index. Then there is his unique use of the English language, with twists which could gladden the hearts of some of the most morose amongst us.

One other factor which endears Wodehouse to his ardent fans is the manner in which he draws upon the works of such other literary figures as Shakespeare, Keats, Shelley, Tennyson, Rudyard Kipling, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Oscar Wilde.

In the Wodehouse canon, The Bard has a unique place. Almost all of Plum’s works are littered with references to the literary outpourings of…

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To be or not to be a die-hard fan of a particular literary figure is perhaps decided by our Guardian Angels. Mines have been benevolent and ensured that I suffer from acute Wodehousitis.

But when it comes to William Shakespeare, much revered by all and sundry, my GAs have ensured that I never qualify to be even a mild case of Shakespearitis. One of the several challenges I have faced in my life is that of understanding the literary fare dished out by William Shakespeare. Given the high level of what Bertie Wooster might label as my Pumpkin Quotient, repeated attempts on my part to comprehend the ingenious outpourings of The Bard have failed miserably.

But an absence of Shakespearitis does not necessarily guarantee peace of mind. On the contrary, it makes life even more of a challenge. The brow is invariably furrowed. The heart is leaden with woe. This…

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Branding is a term which originates in the realm of marketing management but is generally applicable to any product, service, entity or person which stands out amongst the crowd and calls out for any Unique Selling Proposition of its. It could be applied to countries, movie directors and even to some fictional characters from literature!

Here are some examples which demonstrate this point better.

Countries

 

 

After the Trump era (2016-20), studies have popped up claiming that the USA has slid down significantly on its soft power in the world. Same is said to be the case with many other countries where brutal suppression of dissent has become a way of life and where human rights have been trampled upon.

China keeps expanding its soft power by promoting movies out of Hollywood exposing the world to its culture. India offers spirituality and its own culture to the world.

The movie Eat, Pray, Love (2010) illustrates the point rather well. A heart-broken heroine travels through different countries. She discovers the true pleasures of the table in Italy, the soothing power of payer in India and the inner peace and balance of love in Indonesia!

Movie Directors 

Apart from other celebrities, those who wield the megaphone in the movie industry often exude soft power.

I confess I am a movie buff. Quite early in life, I discovered that a movie should be selected for viewing not based on its cast but based on its director. Each director has a distinctive perspective on life, and the manner in which he/she presents a theme is as unique as, say, one´s finger prints. Admittedly, the core brilliance of a movie is determined by the producer-director duo. But the unmistakable stamp on the narrative is that of the director. The script, the screenplay, the music, the camera work, the background score, the sets, the costumes, the editing, all these transport us to a different realm for a limited time.

To put it simply, if you sit down to watch a movie by either Steven Spielberg or Gulzar saheb, you know what to expect. Seeing a movie which is directed by, say, David Lean, is as much enriching an experience as seeing one directed by either Hrishikesh Mukherji or Basu Chatterji.

Over a period of time, a movie director builds up a brand equity for himself. It comes from the uniqueness of his style, the choice of his scripts, consistency in quality of his directorial ventures and sheer attention to detail in all the departments of movie making. This earns a well-deserved respect from the discerning viewers, crowned by some degree of commercial success.

The CEO of a Dream Merchandise Factory

A director’s role in shaping a movie would perhaps be comparable to that of either the CEO of a company or the conductor of an orchestra. A CEO’s mindset determines the business strategy of a company. His style of functioning and his value system permeates across all levels of the company. Likewise, the conductor of an orchestra blends the notes of stringed, percussion and other instruments, creating a symphony which is unique. Like a CEO guiding a company or a conductor presenting a symphony, the director also balances the strengths and weaknesses of his team members and comes up with a movie which is entertaining – and possibly educative – in the social context.

A director surely knows how to touch our heart-strings in a meaningful way. In the process, he delivers deep messages, whether social, political, economical or the spiritual kind.

Some Literary Brands

Those of us who have admired the exploits of Sherlock Holmes and Reginald Jeeves are occasionally overawed by the kind of popularity these literary figures enjoy. Both may be fictional, but the influence they exert on our consciousness is exemplary. One would not be wrong in perceiving both of them to be brands in their own right.

Sherlock Holmes: An Honorary Citizen of Meiringen

Ever heard of the charming Alpine town of Meiringen in Switzerland? It is a municipality in the Interlaken-Oberhasli administrative district in the canton of Bern in Switzerland. Ringed in by snow-covered peaks, it is located on one of the most important trade routes through the Alps for centuries.

One of Meiringen’s attractions is the Sherlock Holmes Museum which recreates the detective’s abode at 221A, Baker Street in London, besides Victorian era memorabilia. The nearby Reichenbach Falls are where, in The Final Problem, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle made his hero suffer a premature death at the hands of his adversary Dr Moriarty, only to resurrect him later in The Adventure of the Empty House on persistent demands from the detective’s fans. Well, quite some time back, it had granted an honorary citizenship to Sherlock Holmes.

It stands to reason that the town had granted an honorary citizenship to Sherlock Holmes. A certificate to this effect is displayed in the museum. Also, at the base of the falls, there is a rock inscription to this effect!

When one picks up a Sherlock Holmes story, one is assured of good value for one`s time and effort. Backed by hard-nosed judgment, insightful observations and above-par analytical skills, he delivers. Go to him with a mystery and he demystifies it. His methods and skills have provided clues to investigators in many countries. He is utterly reliable. He delivers. These are the very attributes which go on to build up a brand.

Gentlemen’s Personal Gentleman

Likewise, Jeeves, created by P G Wodehouse, stands for impeccable service and a capacity to deliver results beyond the expectations of the bosses. The manner in which he helps his boss Bertie Wooster retain his bachelor status is a sterling example of his feudal spirit as also an inner cunning. His methods are often rough, but there is no doubt as to his capacity to deliver satisfactory results. He believes that bosses are like wild horses; they need to be managed with tact and resource.

In the United Kingdom, one is apt to run into laundry and other services which bear his brand name.

Many examples can be quoted from literature, fine arts and other creative fields of human endeavour.

In an earlier post, we had considered the perks of building and sustaining a shimmering brand in the market place. The focus there was on companies and individuals. Examples cited above go on to reveal to us the kind of hard work, consistency of effort and persistence which enable a softer brand to emerge. The essential principles underlying the creation and sustenance of a brand remain the same.

 

 

(Related Posts: 

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2021/03/15/the-perks-of-a-shimmering-brand-equity

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2017/12/13/a-brand-called-jeeves

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/05/28/sherlock-holmes-the-honorary-citizen-of-meiringen-switzerland

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2012/08/11/hats-off-to-these-movie-directors)

 

 

 

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In quite a few escapades of Bertie Wooster and his bosom pals, we come across headmistresses and headmasters who remind us of our own days at school. Many of us might not have ever won a prize for Scripture Knowledge, but the mere mention of a brightly authoritative gaze touches the darker realms of our individual scholastic experiences. Invariably, it is not only about the stern look and the stiff upper lip. It is also about our dread of public speaking – and of juicy canes in the soft spots.

The tyranny of these strict disciplinarians does not remain confined to childhood days alone. It often pops up years later when their understudies have grown into adulthood. Even a chance encounter leaves Bertie shaking like an aspen and fearing yet another admonition at the hands of the lion-tamers.

The Female Lion-tamer

Take the case of Miss Mapleton in Jeeves and…

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When the tireless striving of a true blue fan of P G Wodehouse stretches towards perfection, need one say more?!

Plumtopia

‘The two twin souls gazed into each other’s eyes. There is no surer foundation for a beautiful friendship than a mutual taste in literature.’

P.G. Wodehouse – ‘Strychnine In The Soup’

To celebrate World Book Day, I’ve put together a little reading list of some of the books  featured in Wodehouse’s writing.

dickensGEGreat Expectations by Charles Dickens

‘… I’m in the middle of a rather special book. Ever read Great Expectations? Dickens, you know.’

‘I know. Haven’t read it, though. Always rather funk starting on a classic, somehow. Good?’

‘My dear chap! Good’s not the word.’

The Pothunters (1902)

adventures_of_sherlock_holmesThe Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

‘Mr. Downing had read all the Holmes stories with great attention, and had thought many times what an incompetent ass Doctor Watson was; but, now that he had started to handle his own first case, he was compelled to admit that…

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Quite a few fans of P G Wodehouse often wonder as to how Jeeves and Bertie come together and why they stick PGW CarryOnJeevestogether despite having stark differences in matters of attire, appearance, love and relationships in general. Is there an underlying message in all their innumerable escapades that we are treated with, each one laced with intoxicating verbosity and linguistic opulence – a hallmark of this great author?

Getting Hired the First Time

In Jeeves Takes Charge, we are treated to the scenario of Bertie Wooster hiring Jeeves in the first place.

For the privilege of someone of the caliber of Jeeves shimmering into Bertie’s life, we have to thank two persons. One is Bertie’s previous valet, a bloke by the name of Meadows. Had he not stolen a couple of things from the master’s place, a request for a replacement would not have gone to the registry office…

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“There is no surer foundation for a beautiful friendship than a mutual taste in literature,” said P.G. Wodehouse.

Well, someone of my dubious literary intelligence cannot claim to know what exactly defines literature. Allow me, therefore, to take the argument a bit further and surmise that a common love for some selected authors could prove to be a good foundation for a bond of friendship to evolve and develop.

This is precisely what I rediscovered recently, while on a short visit to the City Beautiful of India – Chandigarh.

The basic idea was to chew some fat together with some other fans of P G Wodehouse in the city. But the Guardian Angels, ostensibly concerned about my cholesterol levels, directed me to the lair of Prof. Ashwini Agrawal, with whom a simple cup of tea, accompanied by some savouries, facilitated the creation of a bond which is sure to develop into a long-lasting friendship in the years to come.

Arthur Hailey

Any discussion about Plum remains incomplete without his fans gushing over his use of the English language, his unique turn of phrase, the relentless lampooning of the British aristocracy in his works, and the sharpness with which his characters, whether human or otherwise, get etched. His dazzling wit comes in for praise, as does his scintillating humour. Our meeting was no exception to this general rule.

Besides Plum, several authors whose works we both had devoured in the past got discussed. The breezy whodunits dished out by James Hadley Chase came up for discussion. So did the erudite works of Arthur Hailey and Irwing Wallace. The meticulous thrillers of Frederick Forsyth got covered. Many other authors whom both of us admired in the past found their way into the brief discussion we had.

Frederick Forsyth

Some challenges got discussed. Getting the young millenials to read itself topped the list of concerns expressed. To attract their attention to Plum’s works came in a close second. The scheme mooted at the New Delhi meet of Plum’s fans – that of launching a matrimonial website which would facilitate bonding between two souls of which at least one happens to be a die-hard fan – was considered a good solution towards ensuring that the genes of Wodehousitis get passed on to the coming generations.

Professor Ashwini Agrawal rued having recently lost a great collection of his books, including those of Wodehouse, to the vagaries of imperfect plumbing in a portion of his house. As a renowned archaeologist who specializes in Numismatics, he also has a room overflowing with books of professional interest.

He is an avid traveller. It just so happened that we could meet up. The credit of leading me to him rests entirely on the slender shoulders of Ms. Abha Singhal

Prof Ashwini Agrawal

Joshi, another Plum fan based in New Delhi. Those of you who follow my blog posts may recall her having played the role of Gladys Biggs at the last gig in the metropolis, held on the 11th of November, 2017.

Like Switzerland, Chandigarh also hides its Plum fans rather well. One hopes that this post might ferret out a few more who reside in the City Beautiful. This could pave the way for a Drones Club to come up there, so those aspiring for an Olympic medal for throwing of bread crumbs may get some well-deserved practice and even those aiming to get a Grammy for a boisterous rendering of Sonny Boy might get a platform to showcase their skills.

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2017/11/23/a-plummy-encounter-in-new-delhi-india)

 

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Uncle Fred and Shakespeare

Yet another sterling example of Wodehouse’s use of Shakespeare is found in Uncle Fred in the Springtime (1939).

When Alaric, Duke of Dunstable decides to take Empress of Blandings away from her loving master and get her fit, Lord Emsworth calls in the services of the redoubtable Uncle Fred. Fred arrives full of the joys of spring, with nephew Pongo Twistleton and old friend Polly Pott in tow, and despite the efforts of the efficient Baxter, endeavours to scupper the Duke and bring together a variety of romantic couplings.

The perils of a financial obligation

‘Beginning by quoting from Polonius’s speech to Laertes, which a surprising number of people whom you would not have suspected of familiarity with the writings of Shakespeare seem to know, Mr Pott had gone on to say that lending money always made him feel as if he were rubbing velvet the wrong way, and that in any case he would not lend it to Pongo, because he valued his friendship too highly. The surest method of creating a rift between two pals, explained Mr Pott, was for one pal to place the other pal under a financial obligation.’

Of Hamlet and optimism

When Pongo Twistleton takes a pessimistic view of the plan hatched by Lord Ickenham, the latter consoles Polly thus.

‘I hope he isn’t frightening you, Polly.’
‘He is.’
‘Don’t let him. When you get to know Pongo better,’ said Lord Ickenham, ‘you will realize that he is always like this — moody, sombre, full of doubts and misgivings. Shakespeare drew Hamlet from him. You will feel better, my boy, when you have had a drink. Let us nip round to my club and get a swift one.’

Of poets being commercial

When Ricky tries to strike a deal with Duke, a comment on poets having a keen eye on royalty returns pops up.

‘Poets, as a class, are business men. Shakespeare describes the poet’s eye as rolling in a fine frenzy from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven, and giving to airy nothing a local habitation and a name, but in practice you will find that one corner of that eye is generally glued on the royalty returns. Ricky was no exception. Like all poets, he had his times of dreaminess, but an editor who sent him a cheque for a pound instead of the guinea which had been agreed upon as the price of his latest morceau was very little older before he found a sharp letter on his desk or felt his ear burning at what was coming over the telephone wire.’

The art of soliloquising

Of Aunts who soliloquise

Many of those who belong to the so-called sterner sex might appreciate the sentiment expressed here:

‘As far as the eye could reach, I found myself gazing on a surging sea of aunts. There were tall aunts, short aunts, stout aunts, thin aunts, and an aunt who was carrying on a conversation in a low voice to which no body seemed to be paying the slightest attention. I was to learn later that this was Miss Emmeline Deverill’s habitual practice, she being the aunt of whom Corky had spoken as the dotty one. From start to finish of every meal she soliloquised. Shakespeare would have liked her.’
[The Mating Season (1949)]

When smoking habits come under the lens

Lancelot Bingley, an upcoming young artist, is engaged to Gladys Wetherby, a poetess, who not only has great skill with the pen but also has the face and figure of a superior kind of pin-up girl. However, for them to be able to take a saunter down the aisle, financial support from Gladys’ Uncle Francis, an obese game hunter, is necessary.

Lancelot gets commissioned to paint a portrait of Uncle Francis, who is known to abhor tobacco in any form. However, Lancelot decides to smoke a quiet cigar in the garden when Uncle and her magnificent cook happen to come along. Hamlet gets invoked.

“That, or something like it, was what I said, and I dived into the shrubbery. The voices came nearer. Someone was approaching, or rather I should have said that two persons were approaching, for if there had been only one person approaching, he would hardly have been talking to himself. Though, of course, you do get that sort of thing in Shakespeare. Hamlet, to take but one instance, frequently soliloquised.”

[A good cigar is a smoke (Plum Pie, 1966)]

When hesitation takes over

In order to maintain matrimonial harmony, Bingo Little needs to establish an alibi which would undo the damage done since Rosie M Banks has discovered a photo of his in the Mirror, which shows him being led by a gruff policeman along with Miss Mabel Murgatroyd, a redhead of singular beauty.

Freddie Widgeon gets consulted at the Drones. The option of shoving his chin out and saying ‘So what?’ to the love of his life is ruled out. Freddie then reminds him of the old gag about ‘women being tough babies in the ordinary run of things but becoming ministering angels when pain and anguish wring the brow.’ An accident must come about. Getting hit by a cab is not favoured. An idea of a typewriter falling on Bingo’s toe then takes shape. Back in his Wee Tots office, Bingo attempts it.

When it comes to describing a state of hesitation, Shakespeare comes to one’s aid.

‘It really began to seem as if Freddie Widgeon’s typewriter-on-toe sequence was his only resource, and he stood for some time eyeing the substantial machine on which he was wont to turn out wholesome reading matter for the chicks. He even lifted it and held it for a moment poised. But he could not bring himself to let it fall. He hesitated and delayed. If Shakespeare had happened to come by with Ben Jonson, he would have nudged the latter in the ribs and whispered “See that fellow, rare Ben? He illustrates exactly what I was driving at when I wrote that stuff about letting ‘I dare not’ wait upon ‘I would’ like the poor cat in the adage.”

[Bingo bans the bomb (Plum Pie, 1966)]

Of Humour, Humourists and the Bard

Plum held the Bard in high esteem. He once said that “Shakespeare’s stuff is different from mine, but that is not to say that it is inferior.” The frequent use of Shakespearean phrases by Plum merely attests to the same.

Even when putting across a note on humour, Plum does not hesitate to quote the Bard.

“I only asked him how many crows can nest in a grocer’s jerkin. Just making conversation.”
“And what was his reply? Tinkling like a xylophone, he gave that awful cackling laugh of his and said ‘A full dozen at cockcrow, and something less under the dog star, by reason of the dew, which lies heavy on men taken with the scurvy’. Was that sense?”
“It was humour.”
“Who says so?”
“Shakespeare says so.”
“Who’s Shakespeare?”
“All right, George.”
“I never heard of any Shakespeare.”
“I said all right, George. Skip it.”
“Well, anyway, you can tell him from now on to keep his humour to himself, and if he hits me on the head just once more with that bladder of his, he does it at his own risk.”
[A Note on Humour (Plum Pie, 1966)]

How about a Plummy Kalidasa?!

Those familiar with the works of Kalidasa, a poet known for his delicately romantic works in the Sanskrit language, could justifiably rue the fact that Plum, a romantic at heart himself, never got around to quoting him. If a translation had been used by Plum, his fans would have had an even richer harvest to feast upon.

Imagine a distraught Gussie Fink Nottle pining for Madeline Bassett and sending messages to her through clouds passing by above, a la Meghadootam. An exchange of letters and telegrams would have no longer been necessary. Clouds would have acted as a means of communication – a prospect which the younger lot exposed to the Internet of Things and Cloud Computing these days would have thoroughly approved of.

Ritusamhara, a compendium of lover’s escapades across diverse seasons, would have made rich contributions to the lake side jaunts of Honoria Glossop with Bertie Wooster, what with the latter scheming to push her younger brother into the lake waters. With Kalidasa’s support, the description of a harsh winter evening in Something Fresh – when Ashe Marson is being escorted to Blandings Castle – would have got bolstered no end.

A Plummy Shakespeare

Die-hard fans of The Bard might not be too amused at the Plummy version of the ageless poet. Some linguistic purists might also register a protest, possibly composing a nasty e-mail or two even as you read this piece, if piece is indeed the word I want. But there shall never be a doubt as to the additional layer of rich Shakespearean icing dished out by P G Wodehouse on top of so many of his oh-so-delicious Plum cakes, adding to the delight of his fans worldwide.

(Notes:

Inputs received from some ardent fans of Wodehouse are gratefully acknowledged. 

Related Posts: 

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2017/07/01/presenting-a-plummy-shakespeare-part-1-of-3

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2017/07/08/presenting-a-plummy-shakespeare-part-2-of-3

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2017/06/26/the-perils-of-not-suffering-from-shakespearitis)

 

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