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P.G. ‘Plum’ Wodehouse had ample talents to entertain

SALISBURY — On Oct. 15 in the year 1881, Pelham Grenville Wodehouse was born and, despite his mother’s penchant for substantial names, he was known throughout his life as Plum.
Growing up in late Victorian and Edwardian England, Plum, not atypically, was raised along with his two older brothers in England whilst his parents resided in Hong Kong. A reserved and solitary individual, he began writing stories at the age of 7. Plum’s first published work was in “Public School” magazine in February 1900; his career was to span three quarters of a century.
Listening to one of his audiobooks, “Damsel in Distress,” I was completely struck by how effortlessly he makes the most mundane of topics — eliminating pests in the garden for instance — into a fascinating bit of revelry. A young lady running away and hiding in a taxicab while her brother confronts her erstwhile rescuer draws a crowd of ordinary working class folks speculating on the exact nature of the argument and what will come of it. The activities of the everyday and the quirks and vagaries of his characters continue to amuse us.
In many ways Wodehouse fashioned the current view of what Edwardian England was like. Nearly everyone is familiar with his marvelous characters Bertie Wooster and the inestimable Jeeves. Who hasn’t been enchanted by the word play of Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry as they portray these two fellows getting in and out of the most absurdly sticky situations?
The library has four seasons of this wonderful show on DVD ready to be checked out. “The Jeeves Omnibus” is a good place to begin if you are unfamiliar with the antics of these two characters. It includes two complete novels and 10 short stories full of Plum’s unique dialogue of erudition and English upper-crust slang.
Wodehouse wrote 70 novels and more than 300 short stories. One collection of stories of particular interest might be “Wodehouse on Crime,” edited by Bensen with an intriguing forward by Isaac Asimov. With such titles as “Strychnine in the Soup” and “The Crime Wave at Blanding’s, this collection is for the detective novel lover.
“Strychnine” begins with characters described as their favorite libation — “Draught Stout” is comforted by “Lemonade and Angostura.” Bibliophiles everywhere will appreciate this excerpt: “No poet has yet treated of the most poignant bereavement of all — that of the man half-way through a detective story who finds himself at bedtime without the book.”
A number of Plum’s stories have been used to create a fine collection of short dramatic pieces on DVD, “Wodehouse Playhouse.” In one installment, a young man with an awful stammer is rid of his stutter after a day reminiscent of a Keystone cops episode and finally able to profess his love to his neighbor the vicar’s daughter.
David Jasen writes smoothly and with obvious affection an appealing biography, “P.G. Wodehouse: A Portrait of a Master.” Included in the biography are photographs, first printing book and magazine covers, personal letters and posters from musicals. Plum was an accomplished lyricist and wrote many plays and lyrics alone and in partnership with Jerome Kern and Guy Bolton. Looking for more, Jasen’s book includes a bibliography of published works.
Take time to explore the truly delightful world of P.G. Wodehouse.
Summer reading for adults: Literary Elements. Rowan Public Library invites adults to join the library for a summer of programs and great reads with “Literary Elements.” Registration is online for adults ages 18+. Reading hours may be tracked June 16-Aug. 11. Prize drawings will be held with a grand prize awarded at the end of summer celebration.
Kitchen chemistry: June 23, 6:30 p.m., headquarters, Stanback Auditorium; June 24, 6:30 p.m., South branch, China Grove. Tired of using harsh cleaners that leave your head dizzy and your wallet empty? Learn how to make environmentally friendly alternatives at a fraction of the cost. As part of the “Literary Elements” Summer Reading Program for Adults. This program will be led by Toi N. Degree, family and consumer education agent with Rowan Cooperative Extension. There is no charge to participate, and each attendee will be entered for a chance to win a door prize. Visit www.rowanpubliclibrary.org or call 704-216-8229 for more information.
Summer movie series: Tuesday, 6:30 p.m., “The Lorax” (PG); June 24, 6:30 p.m. “City of Bones” (PG13). The library will offer a movie night every Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at RPL headquarters in Salisbury throughout the summer. Movies are free and all ages are welcome. Children should be accompanied by an adult. Free popcorn and lemonade.
Summer reading: Fizz, Boom, Read! Reading hours may be tracked beginning Monday. Prizes for every 5, 10, 15 and 20 hours read with door prizes given at the school-aged programs. Weekly programs begin Monday and run until July 31. RPL staff will be on hand to entertain the youngest participants and professional performers will help captivate the school-age children. This Tuesday-Thursday, storyteller and puppeteer Lona Bartlett.
Family programs will again be offered at Cleveland Town Hall and reading hours can be tracked there at the time of the program.
For a complete schedule of programs, click here, go to www.rowanpubliclibrary.org or call your closest location: Headquarters, 704-216-8234; South, 704-216-7728; East, 704-216-7842.
The library will also have a literacy workshop for parents of children up to age 5 on Monday, June 30, at 6:30 p.m. The workshop is free but registration is required and space is limited. You can register by calling 704-216-8234.
Teen summer reading: Teens may participate in Spark a Reaction where they will explore science through programs and reading. Starting Tuesday and running through July 31, all rising sixth-graders to 12th-graders are invited to participate. Programs will be held 3:30-5 p.m. on Tuesdays, Headquarters; Wednesdays, East Branch in Rockwell; Thursdays, South Rowan Regional in China Grove. This week, Make it Fly: Build trebuchets and paper rockets.
Each week, events will focus on science concepts, experiments and crafts. Every teen who registers receives a booklet for keeping track of the library dollars they earn. Those dollars will be used to enter raffles for prizes provided by the Friends of RPL and other local sponsors. Winners will be announced at the end of the summer Blow Out Blast at South Rowan Regional on July 31, 3:30–5 p.m.
Displays for June: headquarters, doll society; South, fiber items by Rowan Fiber Guild; East, “Winnie the Pooh,” by Kim Davis.
Literacy: Call the Rowan County Literacy Council at 704-216-8266 for more information on teaching or receiving literacy tutoring for English speakers or for those for whom English is a second language.

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