Friday, May 02, 2014

The Swoop! and The Military Invasion of America by P. G. Wodehouse

From her library, Bonnie brought home a thin volume of early P. G. Wodehouse fiction that at first glance seemed particularly silly to me. It is a 2013 republishing of two early Wodehouse stories, The Swoop! and The Military Invasion of America. I say "two stories" because both have titles and both take up part of the volume. In fact, they are one story, which I will explain in a moment.

"The Swoop!" is an illustrated satire about British public nonchalance about national security. Published in Great Britain in 1908, about six years before the start of World War I, Wodehouse portrays his country's citizens as much more concerned about cricket, tennis, and football than about the movements of foreign armies. When the island country is invaded by nine other nations, the news is buried below the sports scores. I do not want to give away too much of the plot, but only the Boy Scouts have the resolve to rid the country of its foreign invaders.

Having finished "Swoop!", I began to read "The Military Invasion of America," a story published in the United States in 1915, before the Americans entered World War I. To my surprise, I found it was essentially the same story relocated across the Atlantic Ocean. Wodehouse reduced the invading armies to two, set much of the action in New York, and left out the comic illustrations, but the plot, main character, and many of the punch lines are exactly the same. Again, the unconcerned public relies on the Boy Scouts to defend the nation.

Even a hundred years later, these stories by the English author who later became an American citizen are enjoyable light comedy that should make readers of British comedy smile. Most readers will finish the two stories in an evening or less easily. Then they should read some Bertie and Jeeves stories until bedtime.

Curiously, people may be just as intent on their sports and other entertainment in 2014. What dangers do we ignore?

Wodehouse, P. G. The Swoop! and The Military Invasion of America. Overlook Press, 2013. 138p. ISBN 9781468308341.

No comments: