Jonathan Coe: What’s so funny about comic novels?

Evelyn Waugh barely gets a mention, but Jonathan Coe’s reflections in the Guardian on the comic novel are worth sharing:

All of this leads us inevitably to PG Wodehouse, the elephant in my comic room, about whom I’ve been silent for too long. We must admit that there is not a grain of satire or moral seriousness in his novels and of course he proved himself, during the war, to be possessed of an incredible political naivety. But while it should have been obvious to me that these very qualities are the key to his greatness, for a long time they made me feel stupidly snobbish about Wodehouse and reluctant even to read him. Some years ago I was lucky enough to be awarded a prize in his name, and with it came a complete set of the Everyman edition of his works. It was only then that I realised the pure, unpolluted humour of which he was possessed was the greatest possible gift he could have offered to the world: the same thing, I suppose, that Italo Calvino had in mind when he extolled the virtues of “thoughtful lightness”, or “comedy that has lost its bodily weight”. More and more I feel that, just as all art aspires to the condition of music, all humour should really aspire to the condition of Wodehouse.

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