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Don't think you need to golf to enjoy these stories, because they aren't really about golf. They're about people who are obsessed, depressed and perplexed by what our narrator, the Club's Oldest Member, always refers to as "the noblest of games". Golf is merely the prism through which Wodehouse views his fellow humans in nine delightful stories--the last three of which tell an ongoing saga of a love, betrayal, jealousy, and how a most frightful bounder redeems himself through--you guessed it--golf.
One of the things I find so captivating about Wodehouse is that his characters think and act in ways that are so utterly improbable and irrational outside the world he has created, yet so probable and rational inside that world. Reading him is like being in a dream where the normal rules don't apply: where a man can't propose to the girl of his choice until he's won at least one round of golf. Where a business tycoon leads his wife and mother-in-law to suspect he's having an affair rather than admit he's competing in a tournament for a pewter mug (value: $3). Where a awful golfer finds the confidence he needs to become truly great from a pair of unsightly plus-fours. Then you realize that you've done things that are, in their way, just as improbably and irrational.
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In the golf stories, Wodehouse despite being a humorist, as mediocre though avid golfer at this period of his life, brought a deep understanding of the game and those who are devoted (hooked on?) to it. Employing the exaggeration, the mock heroic and the seamless plots that are characteristic of his finest work, in these stories Wodehouse pokes gentle gun at the sub culture of golf and golfers. If you are a golfer and self aware, I defy you to read these stories without being able to see yourself. Whether you are the helpless hack, the preening scratch man, the instruction obsessed, the rules lawyer or ab insecure being who has too much self worth dependent on what is after all a game, you are here. In the finest of these stories Wodehouse, as is the wont of truly great humorists, gets to kernel of the nut as well as any golf writer ever has and moreover he provokes smiles and the occasional guffaw.
Johnathan Cecil's reading is masterful with the appropriate heightened dignity layered onto the mock heroic and faux melodramatic stories.
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