My interpretation of what interests and confounds me ....

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Wodehouse and the Greun Effect

Got a mail from an old classmate that revived memories of the good ol' joys of sinking in to your favourite ragged-at-the-edges sofa with a PG Wodehouse in hand. Set me thinking as to what was it that segmented PGW from the rest of the wordsmiths. Can't be humour alone, since there were several blokes who wrote in that genre and fell flat. Neither can it be just jugglery of words - he was undoubtedly a master at that. I guess what set him apart was his sheer depth of understanding of human psychology. He knew, to use a metaphor, where to hit. Rather than hit where it hurts the most, he hit where it elevated you the most. One would be left with this quaint feeling of helpless enjoyment, wanting to sink deeper and deeper into the quagmire that he would drag us into. No wonder, we fell for the maestro's masterful manipulation that made the mundane, magnificent.

Incidentally, the Gruen Effect (or Transfer) refers to the psychological transformations that happen to a fairly natural individual when he/she visits a shopping mall. When a consumer enters a shopping mall, he/she is surrounded by an intentionally confusing layout that makes him/her lose track of his/ her original intentions. Spatial awareness of the surroundings play a key role, as does the surrounding sound and music. The effect of the transfer is marked by a slower walking pace, glazed eyes and slackening of the jaw. In short, the the moment when we forget what we came for and become impulse buyers. It's named after Victor Gruen (an Austrian architect) who modelled the first ever shopping mall. (courtesy

What Gruen is to malls, I guess, PGW is to books.

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