Just ahead of Episode Eight of our current Tale for Our Time, a word from your humble host:
Thanksgiving 2020 marks SteynOnline's eighteenth birthday and, as is traditional, we're offering eighteen per cent off all my books, CDs and other products - but only through the weekend. Just shop as you normally would and the 18 per cent savings will be applied at checkout - and, if you're a Steyn Club member, don't forget to enter your special promotional code at checkout to receive even more savings on over forty items.
I would like to think we'll be here to offer nineteen per cent off on our nineteenth birthday, but the Big Shut Up is accelerating around the Internet: In my discussion with Alex Berenson on the Thanksgiving Eve "Tucker", I noted that the censoriousness, even recently, had been confined to touchy subjects people took personally - race, transgender issues, etc - but that since the coming of Covid it had now expanded to the point where you could be canceled merely for disagreeing with what Twitter and Facebook regard as the official version. Things are going to get very rough on the free-speech front over the next few months. In such circumstances, I thank all of you who keep this l'il ol' website and its various activities part of your daily rounds.
With public observances of Thanksgiving and the Christmas season all but totally clobbered by the lockdown commissars, we offer this Tale for Our Time by way of consolation - P G Wodehouse's account of an Englishman in New York in the years before the Great War: Psmith, Journalist. CrossBorderGal, a Mark Steyn Club member whose soubriquet is surely harder to live up to than it was back in February, writes from one or other side of the closed frontier:
The imagery of a Wodehousian metaphor always works like a tonic on me, and this tale has some beauties! (Billy Windsor's ears are keen enough to 'hear a fly clear its throat,' and Psmith promises the persistence of a 'conscientious leech.')
Your choice of this tale is just what we need as an antidote to the tension of a protracted election outcome and the spectre of an ugly showdown in Georgia. Thank you for administering the perfect drug in small, delightful dosages!
Thank you, CBG. Today's episode begins with Billy Windsor and Psmith on their way to a boxing match between Kid Brady and Cyclone Al. Wodehouse had been a boxer himself at Dulwich College, and one reason why he was so eager to visit America was to meet Gentleman Jim Corbett and other heroes. Is "Kid Brady" anything to do with Kid McCoy? McCoy was world middleweight champion when Wodehouse made his acquaintance. Plum airily asked the Kid if he could step into the ring with him, which challenge McCoy accepted. Dreams of world championship glory for Wodehouse were, alas, stymied when the Kid's then missus turned up and other matters intervened.
Which wife was it? Kid McCoy was married ten times to eight different women and eventually went to Sing-Sing for murdering a ninth - a wealthy not-yet-divorcée who was found dead of a single gunshot at their love nest. The morning after he shot her (or, by his account, she killed herself), the Kid went on a bizarre crime bender, robbing and taking hostage a dozen men at his paramour's antique shop. He shot one of them, and forced another half-dozen to remove their trousers.
At any rate, "Kid Brady", like Kid McCoy, comes from out west (McCoy had been Fire Chief in Marin County), but is otherwise a less complicated fellow. To get to the boxing match, Psmith and Billy are obliged to take the Subway, which, per Wodehouse, is very different from the London Tube:
When Psmith and Billy entered it on the Friday evening, it was comparatively empty. All the seats were occupied, but only a few of the straps and hardly any of the space reserved by law for the conductor alone.
Conversation on the Subway is impossible. The ingenious gentlemen who constructed it started with the object of making it noisy. Not ordinarily noisy, like a ton of coal falling on to a sheet of tin, but really noisy. So they fashioned the pillars of thin steel, and the sleepers of thin wood, and loosened all the nuts, and now a Subway train in motion suggests a prolonged dynamite explosion blended with the voice of some great cataract.
Psmith, forced into temporary silence by this combination of noises, started to make up for lost time on arriving in the street once more.
"A thoroughly unpleasant neighbourhood," he said, critically surveying the dark streets. "I fear me, Comrade Windsor, that we have been somewhat rash in venturing as far into the middle west as this. If ever there was a blighted locality where low-browed desperadoes might be expected to spring with whoops of joy from every corner, this blighted locality is that blighted locality."
Earlier instalments of Psmith, Journalist can be found here - and thank you again for all your comments, thumbs up or down, on this latest serialization. Very much appreciated. If you'd like to know more about The Mark Steyn Club, please click here - and don't forget, for fellow fans of classic fiction and/or poetry, our Steyn Club Gift Membership.
I'll see you back here tomorrow for Part Nine of Psmith, Journalist - and throughout the coming week for more audio delights.