Friday, February 22, 2008

Bring It On Wodehouse: Pom-Poms for Plum

Wodehouse Brings It On banner

How, oh how to wrap up Bring It On Week? Well, all good things must come to an end (unless cheer captain Chris Sims decides to extend the celebrations to Bring It On Month). And surely that would be too much for the mortal mind to bear! Tho' not me, I'm telling you.

So let's bid a fond farewell to Bring It On Week with surely the most unexpected mash-up of them all: the intersection of the world of Jeeves and Bertie with that of Torrance and Missy. As Mister Sims himself might say: great fan fiction...or greatest fan fiction? Surprise, surprise, this isn't unauthorized: we actually have a chance to get a glimpse of the Great Man's words on that fine, fine sport of kings: cheerleading.

The source material for this post comes courtesy of boisterous Bully booster and brilliant banjomaster J.R. Jenks, your host over at the aptly named J. R. Jenks' Blog. J. R. wrote to me:
Thought you'd be able to do something with this for Bring It On Week:
...and pointed me to a 1995 article from The Independent by Lucinda Rogers (read it here, skimming down below the stuff on Sweden), about the opening of an exhibition of Wodehouse's papers and books at Plum's alma mater, stately old boy's school Dulwich College (model for Wrykyn and St. Austin's). Never have I been more jealous of missing an eighteen-year-old event than I was when I read the link J.R. kindly sent my way. And what does this have to do with cheerleading, you might ask? Why, because it features an excerpt from a 1904 letter in which Plum wisely exhorts the American sport of on-bringing. Let's read from Ms. Lucinda Rogers's report, shall we?
It was a typically idiosyncratic affair. Family relics and crumbling devotees of Blandings Castle and the Drones Club rubbed shoulders with gentlemen of the Press and callow teacherly types in Jasper Conran jackets. Nearly a century after his first school stories appeared in Punch and the Strand magazine, Wodehouse fans remain as bewilderingly diverse as ever. At different times I spotted: a) the editor of the Good Hotel Guide; b) the former President of the Institute of Taxation, now embarked on a definitive guide to Wodehouse and Tax; c) the ex-managing director of Victor Gollancz Ltd, sporting a Radio 1 haircut; d) Patrick Wodehouse, nephew of the great man, reminiscing about Sir Pelham's habit of eating fruitcake for breakfast and impetuously scissoring the sleeves off his shirts in hot weather; and e) the Master of College's beautiful secretary discoursing with a bewildered publisher about the role (if any) of the apostrophe in classical literature.

Frankly, I shied away from this egregiously precious company and, steered by the college Wodehouse Library's Jan Piggott—a twinkling, slimmed-down version of Lord Emsworth, who can tell you the exact scholastic record of the school's other literary stars, from Raymond Chandler to Graham Swift, Michael Ondaatje and Mick Imlah—I checked out the Wodehouse letters on display, some of them only recently discovered. Whatever happened to PGW in the years 1896 to 1900, he never forgot it. No pupil has ever taken so wholeheartedly to college life, nor made it the lodestar of his subsequent, 70-year maturity. His letters—even during the War—are full of golly- gosh enthusiasm for his alma mater's cricketing victories against Haileybury and Stowe. In the Sixties, he can be found abusing the not-terribly-avant-garde school mag for reducing its sports coverage in favour of "art photography and bad poetry". But my favourite letter dates from 1904, when Wodehouse can be found urging his fellow Old Alleynians to adopt the new American practice of cheerleading.

"The fact is", he writes, "that half the spectators, the OAs, are too busy for applause, and the other half, the School, do not know what to say. When an OA comes down to the Sports he is so busy dodging other OAs that he has no time for frivolous applause; or if he is of the more degraded type, he is wondering if his cap is on straight; hence the silence." Wodehouse, displaying a relaxed attitude to sanity, suggests some kind of rudimentary "college yell" along the lines of:

Yah! Yah! Yah!

Yah! Yah! Yah!

Boomelake! Boomelake!

Penn Charter!

PC! PC! Rah! Rah! Rah!

PC! PC! Rah! Rah! Rah!

"This is the right stuff," he concludes. "It would stun a caterpillar." What a guy.
Cheers to you, Lucinda Rogers of eighteen years past, for preserving the words of the Master on cheerleading. Cheers also to J.R. Jenks, for pointing me to the perfect ending to Bring It On Week. Let's celebrate, shall we, by watching Bring It On! I know what you're saying: But that trick never works! But this time fer shure!:

Keep on bringin' it on, girls. And always remember:

Stan Lee

A Wodehouse a Week Index.


Marc Burkhardt said...

You know, I always liked Bring It On because ... well, it co-starred Faith The Vampire Slayer. But now that you've connected it to Wodehouse - well, gosh I'll never be able to see that movie the same way again.

The Keeper eternally bows to your (and Chris Sims', of course) greatness!!!

SallyP said...

"Boomelake, Boomelake!"

J.R. Jenks said...

It is most gratifying that you are pleased, Bully. I endeavor to give satisfaction.

CaptainAverage said...

I tried to hold this back, honor of the week...
Bully,Bully, he's our steer!
That is why I wrote this cheer!

Talking comics,he's so fun,
Bringing joy to everyone!

Watch him travel,he won't speed,
Watch him give Wodehouse a read!

Bully,Bully,he's our steer,
Reading you throughout the year!

Go Bully!

Ahem.I hope that closes this chapter.Now I must go lift weights or something.