Sunday, October 14, 2007

What's all this then...

Anglophile - one who greatly admires or favors England and things English.

Yup, that's me, especially regarding the written word. I've recently realized that the majority of the books I've read repeatedly are by British authors, among them J.R.R. Tolkien, Elizabeth Goudge, George MacDonald, and Dorothy Sayers.

The Brits know how to write humor. An excellent collection of essays is Laughter In A Damp Climate. It includes a broad list of essayists from Chesterton to Wilde to Jerome K. Jerome. Chaucer is in there and so is Jane Austen, Dylan Thomas, and A. A. Milne. It's a great book, providing a healthy dose of wit after a wearying day.

P.G. Wodehouse stands alone. The BBC did an excellent job of bringing his Jeeves books to television. Stephen Fry defined the role of Jeeves, and nobody can play Bertie Wooster the way Hugh Laurie played him. He became the character. Laurie is a tremendous comic actor, a fact unknown by many Americans because he's such a good dramatic actor in House. When I saw the original previews for that show and learned who was playing the main character...well, I wasn't sure I could watch it. Hugh Laurie?? He's supposed to be empty-headed-but-good-hearted Bertie, not controversial-and-devoid-of-bedside-manner Gregory House. Behold! He is both. That's a great actor for you.

Back to Wodehouse. He's funny, a master wordsmith. You wouldn't know this if I didn't confess it, but I've just spent twenty minutes trying to explain why he's funny. I've had to use the delete and backspace keys a lot because I can't capture it properly and I have given up. I could crib something from a review of his works, but I won't. You should simply read one of his books. Start with Company For Henry.

And speaking of Hugh Laurie's comic roles, he was a member of the talented ensemble in The Black Adder, a BBC series starring Rowan Atkinson. The series follows various members of the Blackadder family through time, highlighting famous eras in British history. It has hilarious moments, especially if you're a history buff. All of my friends agree that Rowan Atkinson is not the most attractive man on BBC television, except when he plays Lord Edmund Blackadder (Elizabethan era). He should keep the beard. Oh my.

Atkinson is a family favorite. He headed the cast of The Thin Blue Line, after Blackadder and Mr Bean. Although I was sorry to have seen Bean (the feature film), Mr Bean (the original series) is a hoot. If you watch only one episode, watch Merry Christmas Mr Bean.

British humor is unto itself. It has caustic wit and gentle understatement. It has farce and 'wink wink, nudge nudge'. Mention Monty Python in a roomful of people and half the room may respond with 'nee!' Have you ever had the good fortune to catch a session of the British Parliament on C-Span? Those M.P.s are among the wittiest politicians on earth as they pithily respond to one another's proposals and comments.

I seem to be on my way to writing a novelette on this post, so I'll stop. At least for now. I may pick up this thread and continue on with it next time. Stay tuned.

1 comment:

Ann said...

My mother loved P G Wodehouse and read him a lot in the last few years she was alive. I haven't worked him onto my reading list yet. Thanx for the comments about his work.