Honeysuckle Cottage and the Relief of Laughter

What began as an earache turned into a difficult weekend of illness. The harsh climate in NM seems to breed chronic illness in the people who live here–the severe and quick weather changes, the cold, dry winter, and the hot, wet summer all spell trouble for anybody whose immune system is not working at peak level. I’ve heard the flu season lasts for eleven months here, and, although that might be an exaggeration, there’s some truth in it.

I’ve found no better way of warding off the depression illness causes than reading P.G. Wodehouse. And because of the arguments going around the Christian speculative fiction blog circles, I decided to reread Honeysuckle Cottage. This story is one of the master’s masterworks. Mr. Wodehouse wrote hundreds of stories, most of which adhere to a formulaic comedy structure. Some, however, stand out due to the universal truth of the humor.

First of all, I advise you to head on over to Mike Duran’s blog for the many debates there on Christian fiction. Focus particularly on these recent discussions, Interview w/ Agent Rachelle Gardner and “Redeeming Love”–A Review, in which the debates revolve around what makes good Christian fiction. Inevitably, arguments between the romance readers and the serious fiction readers abound.

Now go find a copy of Honeysuckle Cottage–it will take you less than half an hour to read. This short story was originally published in The World of Mr. Mulliner, but I’m certain you can find e-versions, or discover it in a P.G. Wodehouse volume at your local library. In case you don’t want to do that, a synopsis of the story is as follows: an author of serious hard-boiled fiction inherits 5000 pounds from his aunt Leila J. Pinckney, famous author of drippy romance stories, so long as he promises to live six months out of the year at her country cottage. The cottage, however, is haunted by the numerous romance novels the aunt has written there, and our author of serious hard-boiled fiction soon finds drooping-violet-type females entering into his stories, where previously only suspense, murder, and mayhem existed.

We should all laugh at ourselves occasionally, and Wodehouse provides a way for us to do just that. Even agent Rachelle Gardner  (Mike Duran’s agent, as well as agent to numerous romance writers) would find this story amusing because it pokes fun at the literary agent in the story, who is serious enough about selling books to represent both Leila J. Pinckney, romance writer, as well as her nephew, the writer of serious fiction. When the nephew complains that his aunt’s books are tripe, the agent responds, “No author who pulls down a steady twenty thousand pounds a year writes tripe.”  Bear in mind that Wodehouse’s story was first published in 1925, when 20,000 pounds a year was an insane amount of money for an author to earn.

When my head is feeling a little more attached to the rest of my body, I’ll actually write the blog post I intended to go w/ the title Solving one of Literature’s Great Questions With the Enneagram.

p.s. Image of P.G. Wodehouse taken from the wiki article on the same.


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