Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Kid Brady Stories and A Man of Means by P. G. Wodehouse

At the same time that a new author is taking up P. G. Wodehouse's characters (see Jeeves and the Wedding Bells), early Wodehouse works are being republished. In 2013, the Overlook Press put together Kid Brady Stories and A Man of Means, joining into one volume stories about two unlikely men, a street boy who becomes a champion boxer and a lowly bank clerk who becomes a multi-millionaire. These stories were all published in periodicals and later collected in books in 1907 and 1914. Together in a new volume, they humorously show us an Englishman's take on American initiative and social mobility.

The boy who becomes internationally known as boxer Kid Brady got his start as a errand boy at a gymnasium. When the proprietor asked what he could do, he answered "Anything," the properly optimistic American verbally-delivered resume. He made good on his promise in stories that must have drawn inspiration from dime-store novels of the time. Thankfully, Wodehouse supplied better than dime-store dialogue and description in his quickly-read stories.

Roland Bleke was a shy young man who seemed to get himself into situations by not being assertive. Readers first learn of him asking his employer to reduce his pay. If his slight savings declined, he hoped to discourage the young woman who had designs on marrying him. How he became wealthy without intention is quite comic. In the last story "The Hired Past," he hired a man-servant to help him escape another romantic entanglement, foreshadowing the later Bertie Wooster and Jeeves stories.

Wodehouse reflected the society of his time in racial and gender attitudes. Still, Kid Brady Stories and A Man of Means is good fun for Wodehouse fans and anyone interested the comic writings of early 20th century America.

Wodehouse, P. G. Kid Brady Stories and A Man of Means. Overlook Press, 2013. 206p. ISBN 9781468308334.

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