The Code of the Readers*

Do you come here often? If you do, you’ll notice that I’ve been “currently reading” Atlas Shrugged for a while now. Maybe I need to go on another vacation with a long, peaceful train ride so I can finally finish it. But, in the meantime, I’m stuck at Galt’s long (!) speech. It goes on for at least 60 pages and while it’s very interesting to me, I don’t have the luxury of being able to read it at complete and total ease. It’s heavy, semi-philosophical stuff and it must be understood well for it to stick. When I do sit down to read it and try to devote my attention solely to it, I become aware of thoughts buzzing about at the back of my mind. I have to respond to that email. Oh, that write-up is still pending. We have to fine-tune the new program. I don’t have enough choices for the next promo set! There’s no milk at home and I need to have coffee tomorrow morning. The apartment is messy and I should really tidy that before plopping myself down to read. You get my drift, I’m sure. I can’t concentrate on it the way that book deserves. So I’m distracted and I get up, walk around, check my emails to make sure I haven’t missed anything.

Maybe it’s because these days I want to get started on an unread P. G. Wodehouse book. They make for relatively light reading and they’re hilarious to a point where you cannot read them in public. If you do, your neighbours will think you’re having some sort of a fit while you struggle unsuccessfully to suppress your laughter before it emanates loudly. This will usually result in involuntary shudders while squeaks escape you at odd intervals and the people in close quarters with you will probably slide a few inches away surreptitiously just in case whatever you have is contagious. It is impossible to resist at least a chuckle a page when reading his books. But, you see, I can’t feast my eyes on his words yet. I have to first finish reading Atlas Shrugged!

Is it okay to stop reading a book when you’re so close…so close to the end? I’ve made it through 948 pages of tiny print…can’t I do another 136? What will I think of myself if I don’t? I will have shamed myself in my own eyes. I shall do it as a project if I have to. If I want to get to Wodehouse badly enough and I must go through Atlas Shrugged to get to it, then it simply must be done. While I love Atlas Shrugged and will re-read it before the end of this year, I’m craving a change of prose. I’m also craving laughter, the kind Plum(as he was called)’s books draw from us. The absence of P. G. Wodehouse’s work and humour in my life will start to burn a hole in the book that lays at my bedside table, with such desire it will be stared at. I’m starting to crumble and I can’t take it anymore. No, I have to get to Wodehouse and I will. I will, dammit! I leave you with a tiny example of the reason I worship his writings. Do look at the Quoting Wodehouse page too. Plenty of gems to be found there.

I had just got across the lawn when a head poked itself out of the smoking-room window and beamed at me in an amiable sort of way.
“Ah, Mr. Wooster,” it said. “Ha, ha!”
“Ho, ho!” I replied, not to be outdone in the courtesies.

– P. G. Wodehouse, ‘Very Good, Jeeves’

*A play on the name of the book ‘The Code of the Woosters’ by P. G. Wodehouse (for all the non-Wodehouse-fans, of course. The Plum fans would recognise it upon reading the first word.)

12 thoughts on “The Code of the Readers*

  1. I fully understand your dilemna about wanting to finish a book before moving on to another. I have had the same troubles, though to be honest there have been a couple times where I simply took a break and read part of another book before returning to the other. I know some may frown upon it, but taking a day off from one book and returning the next day to continue reading isn’t exactly a crime in my opinion. Honestly there have been times that doing just that has helped me better understand or put me in a better mindset for the book I was reading. Anyone else done something similar?

    1. I do worry sometimes that if I don’t finish reading a book in the first go and move to another one I may not go back to it. Has that ever worried you? (That’s how I’ve put off Dr. Zhivago.) Thank you for your insightful thoughts…I think I just might do that–take a break from the heavy stuff and come back to it in a better frame of mind. I hope others stop by and let us know we’re not alone in this. Thank you very much for reading!

  2. When it comes to books, enough definitely is never enough. But a tome with the level of complexity of an ‘Atlas Shrugged’ does bear a certain weight on the reader. Not that I have read it yet (downloaded the eBook, planning to get into it soon), but my first brush with Ayn Rand being ‘The Fountainhead’, I can fully imagine the level of concentration such a book demands. Good luck to you with finishing that, and here’s hoping you’ll have a good review of it for your next post!

    But then when it comes to jumping between books, I’ve found that it is not too much of a challenge for me… but then again, considering the genres I usually read, which do not require much by way of concentration, I guess it is quite doable. I have often finished off a slimmer volume while taking a break from the heavier, more complex books that I read, and sometimes it does help to do that, especially when the author of the heavier book in question chooses to delve into further complexities!

    And as for Wodehouse…well, with all due respect to Shakespeare, in my opinion, Wodehouse is God’s gift to English literature! The way ol’ Plum works his magic with his words is the most extraordinarily funny thing I’ve ever come across, and quite honestly, whenever I’m in a sour mood (like right now, the murky waters of work having crossed eyebrow level), I can simply trust Bertie and Jeeves to put me back in a good mood.

    By the way, I loved that Wodehouse quote you’ve put up, so here’s another; a description of a dog:

    “…This was due to the barking of a small dachshund, who now advanced on me with the apparent intention of seeing the colour of my insides. Milder counsels, however, prevailed, and on arriving at journey’s end, he merely rose like a rocket and licked me on the chin, seeming to convey the impression that in Bertram Wooster, he had found just what the doctor ordered.” (from Jeeves in the offing)

    PS: By the way, I’m new to this blog. Came across it a few days back and have really enjoyed what you’ve written. Good stuff, keep it coming!

    1. Yay! A fellow Plum fan! Somehow I don’t run into enough of us, which is a real shame because the joy derived from his books can be shared when the mood strikes and that’s difficult when one party hasn’t the foggiest what the other one is going on about. “Wodehouse, you say? Who’s that?” is the sort of response one encounters and then gapes at the speaker incredulously (like a newt, perhaps?) for they have no idea what they’ve missed out on. The mind boggles, sir.

      To get done with Atlas Shrugged, I could just skip the speech and move on to the real action, the aftermath of it…but I don’t want to “cheat”. Do you see what I mean? That’s what makes it a real toughie, but it’s resulting in not reading at all! Quite unacceptable for us readers. That’s part of our code, isn’t it? To preserve that some flexibility must be granted.

      That’s a hilarious quote you’ve chosen there and it made me think that, at this moment, perhaps Plum is to me what Bertie was to the dog: Just what the doctor ordered. Perhaps, like you, I will learn to give the mind a break and come back to serious stuff fresher, brighter, maybe even with a vengeance.

      I do hope you’ve let the Plum’s magic better your mood. Have you encountered a case of the blues yet that he cannot cure? Thank you very much for reading and for appreciating my humble writings! It’s good to know these words aren’t going unnoticed; thank you for the encouragement!

      1. You can say that again about the fellow Plum fan bit…I’m glad I’ve found another one in you! My mother introduced me to this brilliance when I was about 12, and its crazy how much a part of our daily conversation Plum’s works have become… right to the point of her addressing me as ‘What ho!’ when she calls, and me responding with ‘a rousing toodle-oo to you’ :)

        With regard to your finishing Ayn Rand, I know you’re probably trying to make an effort to really go through Galt’s speech at a go, letting it all sink in… but I also think, with the intensity of content that particular speech has, maybe it is a better idea to read sections at a time, and let your perceptions and ideas on those parts germinate in your mind, before moving on to the next part of it. Maybe that way, the sum of the parts would amount to more than the whole of it. Though just my observation, this. I have no way of knowing if it would work that way for you.

        You’re right about Plum’s magic lifting me out of the mulligatawny, though! To the extent that I was on an extremely official conference call today, and while the big shots veered most verbose, I put my line on mute and read through a few more pages! I’d be questioning my own professional committment right now… if I weren’t so busy laughing about it!

        And by the way, your writing is honestly good. I’ve practically read through all your posts, and its quite clear that you have this really nice way of putting the simplest thing in a different light. That’s the mark of a true writer (as opposed to the pseudo-Reuters-report plagarism I put up on my blog!! :P ) Like I said, keep it coming. As Plum would put it, when I see a good bit of writing, my eyes ‘light up like those of a wild wolf that has just spotted its luncheon peasant’!!

        1. I love the uplifting Plum story! That’s just hilarious; I imagine you keep one of his books handy for just such mind-numbing moments. Professional commitment be damned! Would they rather you fell asleep during the call or gave it the attention of a zombie? I think not! They’re lucky to have someone like you who can think outside the box of ways to revive one’s mental stamina during such a conference call.

          It must be such fun to have a delightful back-and-forth with your mum, makes life so much cheerier! Many people these days, in fact, aren’t accustomed to reading so it’s always good to find someone who appreciates good literature, and, more importantly, Plum’s humour. I’m glad you stumbled upon my blog! What you’ve mentioned with respect to reading Atlas Shrugged, that is what I did with other parts of the book, but then it came naturally to pick up a pen and want to write about the points that had been raised in my mind. But, yes, perhaps that is the best way to tackle that speech. It is one of the most important pieces in that book after all. After the Fountainhead, this is certainly her best fiction novel.

          Thank you for your kind words, for recognising and pointing out the finer points (and being polite enough to not mention the baser). At the end of the day, good writing simply comes from passion…and love for language. I can’t imagine a person who doesn’t read being much good at writing. I think we each have our passions, something that moves us to write. For you it appears to be current events, politics, economics and the like. Those seem to be topics that move you and make you want to express your thoughts. I have respect and admiration for your writing, its content and the way you write about such things so passionately. The fantastic thing is that you are able to throw your readers a curveball by including pieces written on a more individual level (The Mausam is Awesome and Back to Where I Belong) as opposed to society- or world-related issues.

          I hope I’m able to deliver consistently enough to warrant your praise. I’ll leave you with a quote which one can only reasonably share with a Plum fan, making it almost an inside joke:

          “Jeeves, I’m engaged.”
          “I hope you will be very happy, sir.”
          “Don’t be an ass. I’m engaged to Miss Bassett.”

          – From ‘Right Ho, Jeeves’

  3. Plum’s Plum! If my mother is to be believed, Wodehouse has been a family tradition for the last 4 generations apparently, so you can guess where I’m coming from!! And you’re right about keeping a book of his handy for times like these which I’m in right now… Dire straits usually call for some diversion, and I can’t think of a better one than ol’ Bertram, with the charming company of Kippers, Fink-Nottles and the like :)

    From what you say about good writing coming from passion, I couldn’t agree more. With me, the writing comes only when I feel some issue or thought deserves to be the subject of putting pen to paper… or fingers to keyboard (which reminds me…I really should take up the pen sometime; I haven’t actually written anything the traditional way for quite a while!)

    Thank you so much for your thoughts on my writing :) I really do appreciate the way you’ve described it! Truth be told, I’m not much of an avid writer most of the time, except when it comes to topics such as these, which most of my friends respond upon with a sigh and the occassional ‘Not again!’ But then this is what I enjoy, so this is what I do. I do hope you liked the posts, though. I am sure you understand how a few words of encouragement give a person further reason to write more, so it is definitely my turn to thank you now :)

    So, here’s hoping to see more of your writing!!

    PS:
    Random question – Was Roderick Spode 8 foot 10, or 9 foot 6? I can’t seem to recall, what with the dog Bartholomew yapping at my heels when our dear Lord Sidcup blocked the sunlight passing on his way.

    Cheers, fellow Plummer!!

    1. Haha! Incidentally, I decided to go back to The Code of the Woosters last night and therein Spode is described as being “about seven feet in height[…]in a plaid ulster which made him look about six feet across[…]. It was as if Nature had intended to make a gorilla, and had changed its mind at the last moment.” I love his vivid descriptions of appearances! Constable Dobbs’ face “looked as if it had been carved out of some hard kind of wood by a sculptor who had studied at a Correspondence School and had got to about Lesson Three.”

      I enjoyed your posts quite a bit and I do hope to see more of them too! As for putting a literal pen to paper, I’ve recently found it draws a very different stream of thoughts when you know you’re not putting it on the worldwide web. I wonder if you’ll find that true too. Thank you very much for the kind advice and much-appreciated encouragement.

      Fellow Plummer…glad to make your acquaintance! Cheers!

  4. We’re just Plummin away to glory, and I’m enjoying this!! Speaking of descriptions, here’s one of Sir Roderick Glossop, the famous loony-doctor, making an inquiry about Kipper Herring –

    “Can Mr. Herring swim?”
    “Like several fishes.”
    – (from Jeeves in the Offing)

    You’re quite right about putting a pen to paper bringing out a totally different side. I used to keep a diary a long time ago, and I had put in quite a bit of the troubles I faced at the time, and the apparent insecurities that those led to… and now when I read those bits, it really makes me introspect about how I have evolved, as have the circumstances around me – which at the end of the day has been a totally great experience!!

    Thank you again for taking the time to go through my posts! :) Have a few ideas bouncing around in the Grey Matter Dept., shall post something new soon!

    1. That’s the evolution I’ve noticed within my blog, sometimes over years and sometimes within months or even weeks! I’m tempted to remove some immature ones sometimes but, hey, it’s a journey, right? It’s always good to be able to look back and see the growth.

      It was a pleasure! Looking forward to some more grey matter spillage on your blog! ;)

  5. John Galt’s speech is something you have to take time to read and digest, so it should be perfectly okay to pause for a while and read something else. When you get back to it you may want to read certain passages again as your mind sorts through the words and grapples with their meaning. I have gone back and forth many times and did too when I first read it in 1981. If you feel like PG, then that’s what you should do, go for it!!!!
    AS (Atlas Shrugged) will call you back when you are ready again.

    1. Yup, that’s what I’m trying to do: Reading PG and working through the speech slowly at the same time. I’m glad I am because there are not pearls but dazzling diamonds of wisdom to be found in there. It may take a while, but it’ll be worth it. Thank you for the sage advice. :)

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