Blasted by Bishops

It was Thomas Sowell who said “Some of the biggest cases of mistaken identity are among intellectuals who have trouble remembering that they are not God.”
This is why I’m turning today not to one of the great intellectuals, but to PG Wodehouse; to be specific, his book ‘Cocktail Time’. The book is about the first novel (also called Cocktail Time) written by one of the leading characters and his experiences really hit home. You can tell PG Wodehouse was writing from the heart.
To quote the great man,

“It has been well said that an author who expects results from a first novel is in a position similar to that of a man who drops a rose petal down the Grand Canyon of Arizona and listens for the echo.”

The book gets modest reviews, is regarded as competent, and then the author gets his break.

“But Fame was merely crouching for the spring, simply waiting in the wings, as it were, for the cue which would bring it bounding on stage to drape the chaplet about the brow of its favoured son”

You have to admit that there aren’t many who can write like that now! To cut out a lot of beautiful prose, the book is spotted by a Bishop no less.

“At 12:15 the following Sunday he was in the pulpit of the church of St Jude the Resilient, Eaton Square, delivering a sermon on the text ‘He that touches pitch shall be defiled,’ [Ecclesiasticus 13-1] which had the fashionable congregation rolling in the aisles and tearing up the pews. The burden of his address was a denunciation of the novel Cocktail Time in the course of which he described it as obscene, immoral, shocking, impure, corrupt, shameless, graceless and depraved, and all over the sacred edifice you could see eager men jotting the name down on their shirt cuffs, scarcely able to wait to add it to their library list.”

Obviously from this point on, you can see that the book was going to be a best seller. Wodehouse rounds things off with the comment

“Just as all American publishers hope that if they are good and lead upright lives, their books will be banned in Boston, so do all English publishers pray that theirs will be denounced from the pulpit by a good bishop. Full statistics are not to hand, but it is estimated by competent judges, that a good bishop, denouncing from the pulpit with the right organ note in his voice, can add between ten and fifteen thousand to the sales.”

So this is where I’m going wrong in my marketing. I’m now frantically scouring my address book wondering if there’s a bishop in there who owes me a favour.

And also, as a professional courtesy, it seems only right that having quoted from PG’s book; I should tell you where to buy it.

There again, you might like to read something by me as well, who knows. Try

As one reviewer commented, “This book charts a year in the life of a Cumbrian sheep farmer. It’s sprinkled with anecdotes and memories of other years. Some parts (especially when featuring Sal, the Border Collie) were so funny as to cause me to have to read them out loud to my husband. It’s very interesting to read these things from the pen of the man who is actually out there doing it – usually in the rain! A very good read.”

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10 thoughts on “Blasted by Bishops

  1. willmacmillanjones September 2, 2013 at 12:19 pm Reply

    Love Wodehouse. There’s so much sharpness under the saccharine, and such observation..

    • jwebster2 September 2, 2013 at 3:40 pm Reply

      Absolutely, I’m reading a few of my Father in Law’s and enjoying them 🙂

  2. M T McGuire September 2, 2013 at 4:56 pm Reply

    Wodehouse is one of my favourite authors too. I think the Church of England is rather more relaxed these days.



    • jwebster2 September 2, 2013 at 5:13 pm Reply

      You cannot rely on anybody nowadays! Being blasted from the pulpit by the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland might lack cachet south of the border

  3. honoria plum January 14, 2014 at 5:42 pm Reply

    What Ho! Great piece. Would you mind if I reblogged this at my Wodehouse page, Plumtopia?

    • jwebster2 January 14, 2014 at 5:46 pm Reply

      I’d be honoured. It’s a book which rekindled my interest in Wodehouse, and ironically I’ve probably managed to get more people going to Amazon for this book than for my own, an irony that PG would doubtless have enjoyed 🙂

  4. honoria plum January 14, 2014 at 7:08 pm Reply

    Perhaps, but there are a lots of Wodehouse lovers out there who would be keen to take a peek at your work too. I look forward to sharing this with a few.

  5. honoria plum January 14, 2014 at 7:09 pm Reply

    Reblogged this on Plumtopia: The world of P.G. Wodehouse and commented:
    Author Jim Webster reflects on Cocktail Time.

  6. ashokbhatia January 15, 2014 at 3:06 pm Reply

    What a lovely piece. We had heard of movie producers hoping someone would ban their upcoming yet to be released flicks. But this one takes the cake!
    Allow me to share this post of mine:

    • jwebster2 January 15, 2014 at 3:53 pm Reply

      I think we pigeonhole PG as a writer of humour and forget just how clearly he saw things and how knowledgeable he was about the ways of the world 🙂

      I thought your post was very interesting, again old PG was no fool and whilst his work can be hilarious, he had a good understanding of how things can work. Indeed his books are so funny because things do work and we instinctively understand how it happens.

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