This is a top-notch Wodehouse. Oh, sure, it doesn't have Jeeves and Wooster or Lord Emsworth and Duchess or even Psmith, but who cares? It does have M...moreThis is a top-notch Wodehouse. Oh, sure, it doesn't have Jeeves and Wooster or Lord Emsworth and Duchess or even Psmith, but who cares? It does have Monty Bodkin (whom I encountered in Heavy Weather as one of Lord Emsworth's endless string of secretaries) and an extra complicated, extra delightful plot, which takes place mostly on a ship from England to America.
Wodehouse is at the top of his form with his marvelous idiom, beginning with the very first, irresistible sentence: "Into the face of the young man who sat on the terrace of the Hotel Magnifique at Cannes there had crept a look of furtive shame, the shifty, hangdog look which announces that an Englishman is about to talk French." It's sheer hilarity from cover to cover, and wonderfully, it's even a little longer than most Wodehouse novels, a lovely bonus.(less)
"The sunshine of a fair Spring morning fell graciously upon London town. Out in Piccadilly its heartening warmth seemed to i...moreCross-posted to BookLikes.
"The sunshine of a fair Spring morning fell graciously upon London town. Out in Piccadilly its heartening warmth seemed to infuse into traffic and pedestrians alike a novel jauntiness, so that 'bus-drivers jested and even the lips of chauffeurs uncurled into not unkindly smiles. Policemen whistled at their posts, clerks on their way to work, beggars approached the task of trying to persuade perfect strangers to bear the burden of their maintenance with that optimistic vim which makes all the difference. It was one of those happy mornings."
Out into this happy morning steps Ashe Marson, a young man who writes popular crime novels. A young woman laughs merrily at him as he does his daily exercises. When he retreats into his office and begins work on his next story, THE ADVENTURE OF THE WAND OF DEATH, the young woman (Joan Valentine) comes to apologize, and they proceed to have a marvelous conversation about what exactly a WAND OF DEATH might be. A few pages later, both of them are on their way to Blandings Castle to recover a precious scarab and collect the reward, and we're off along with them.
I quoted that whole paragraph at the beginning, because when discussing Wodehouse, I always come back to his effervescent, inimitable language. It's impossible to describe; one can only quote. I could equally well have chosen many other passages, for this particular novel is full of wonderful ones. I don't laugh out loud all that much while I'm reading, usually; reading this I laughed so many times that my husband finally inquired what I was reading. All I had to say was "Wodehouse."
Besides the language, this book has especially good characters and relationships. Joan and Ashe continue to have excellent banter, but they also have some wonderful interplay in which Joan tells Ashe in no uncertain terms that she isn't to be treated like fine china just because she's a woman. Romantic relationships in Wodehouse often feel a bit rote -- they're not really his forte -- but this one is convincingly real.
There is of course also the absent-minded Lord Emsworth himself, and though this is his earliest appearance and he's bereft of many of his usual supporting characters (notably his brother Sir Galahad, his sister Lady Constance, and his prize-winning pig, the Empress of Blandings), he's still his usual charmingly bumbling self. Happily for Lord Emsworth, he does already have the services of magisterial butler Beach (who has a hilarious interlude with Ashe, describing his Ingrown Toenail, Swollen Joints, and Lining of his Stomach) and the Efficient Baxter, secretary extraordinaire.
This may be early Wodehouse, but it's something fresh, funny, and first-class.(less)
Delafield's marvelous Provincial Lady books are a series of journals written by a middle-class wife and mother, who is full of wit and literary aspira...moreDelafield's marvelous Provincial Lady books are a series of journals written by a middle-class wife and mother, who is full of wit and literary aspirations but who is also tied down to her domestic duties; although she eventually achieves literary success, she still has to pull off a tricky balancing act between her professional and personal lives. A parade of notable characters, often based on Delafield's friends and family, inhabit the pages of the books: the diarist's husband Robert, stolid and unimaginative; her children, Robin and Vicky; Vicky's excitable French governess, Mademoiselle; "dear Rose", the diarist's best friend; and many others. Though gently comic and witty on the surface, beneath runs a fascinating undercurrent of feminist sensibility and criticism (which makes me want to read a biography of Delafield, though sadly none are in print right now). (less)
My family loves these books, and even a brief snippet from one always produces grins all around. This one has one of our most-quoted passages, in a ch...moreMy family loves these books, and even a brief snippet from one always produces grins all around. This one has one of our most-quoted passages, in a chapter on food and cooking: "Another female household-hinter gave a recipe for a big hearty main dish of elbow macaroni, mint jelly, lima beans, mayonnaise and cheese baked until 'hot and yummy'. Unless my taste buds are paralyzed, this dish could be baked until hell freezes over and it might get hot but never 'yummy'." All we have to say is "bake until hot and yummy!" and everyone knows we're talking baaaaad cooking.(less)
For my money, this is one of Wodehouse's best: the plot is well put together, the characters excellent (especially the deep-thinking Lord Uffenham), a...moreFor my money, this is one of Wodehouse's best: the plot is well put together, the characters excellent (especially the deep-thinking Lord Uffenham), and the style at its peak of Plummy perfection.(less)
Patrick Dennis is mostly known these days for the sparkling Auntie Mame, but I think my very favorite of his novels is actually this one, which is abo...morePatrick Dennis is mostly known these days for the sparkling Auntie Mame, but I think my very favorite of his novels is actually this one, which is about a family whose mother and father decide to divorce, from the point of view of the children. It's narrated by Kerry, who introduces himself like this: "My name is Kerry, which is short for Kerrington, for cripes sake, spelled with a K and an E and not with a C and an A and is a very big name somewhere back in Gran's family. Like I told you, I'm ten years old -- practically eleven. I go to St. Barnaby's School because I have to be kept off the streets until I'm sixteen."
Like all of Dennis's books, The Joyous Season is frequently hilarious, yet the subject matter and choice of narrator give the book more emotional substance than most of his others. Kerry is precocious and funny, yet frequently naive and obviously much affected by his parents' breakup; he has an adversarial, yet protective relationship to his show-offy little sister Missy which is an important emotional keynote of the story. Many of the other characters are more caricature than character, but Kerry grounds the book in a reality that makes it touching as well as hilarious. (less)
Me Talk Pretty One Day was the first David Sedaris I read, several years ago, and I still remember laughing so hard while reading it in bed that my hu...moreMe Talk Pretty One Day was the first David Sedaris I read, several years ago, and I still remember laughing so hard while reading it in bed that my husband kept leaning over to ask what was so funny - I always had to hand him the book, because I couldn't possibly have read it aloud without becoming hysterical.
The first part is focused on Sedaris himself and his family; the second deals with Sedaris's struggles with life in France with his new lover. The bits in the second half about his language classes are worth the price of admission all by themselves, particularly "Jesus Shaves", wherein the class tries to explain (in French) Easter and Jesus to a Moroccan Muslim: "He calls his self Jesus and then he die one day on two...morsels of...lumbers."
Okay, now I'm laughing again, so I'll stop there. Just go read the book, but not anywhere you can't laugh out loud. (less)
When Jill Mariner is dumped by her rich, pompous fiancé and loses all her money on the same day, she decides to cross the ocean to New York with her r...moreWhen Jill Mariner is dumped by her rich, pompous fiancé and loses all her money on the same day, she decides to cross the ocean to New York with her rapscallion uncle Chris. After a short stay with some relations on Long Island, she ends up on Broadway, in the chorus of a new musical and having an unexpected new romance.
I thought the book was a little overlong and could have been tightened; it feels a little rambling in places, particularly during the Long Island interlude, which connects the London and New York parts of the book but isn't terribly interesting in and of itself. I did like the feisty heroine and her romance, which was rather more heartfelt than usual in a Wodehouse, and Wodehouse's insider's look at 1930s Broadway is funny and engaging. (less)
The Pythons Autobiography is a funny and fascinating history of Monty Python, by the Pythons themselves: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, E...moreThe Pythons Autobiography is a funny and fascinating history of Monty Python, by the Pythons themselves: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin. (Graham Chapman died in 1989; he's represented by excerpts from earlier books and articles, as well as by his longtime companion David Sherlock and his brother and sister-in-law John and Pam Chapman.) Switching back and forth from one member to another, it covers their individual beginnings, their coming together as a group, and their work together and apart, up to the present day. The multiple viewpoints give an occasionally contradictory but always honest and interesting account of the group's ground-breaking comedy work; I particularly liked the sections on The Holy Grail and The Life of Brian. The book is fairly long (though my paperback edition isn't as long as the hardcover, which had many, many more photographs and images), but it's an absorbing read -- definitely an essential for any Python fan. (less)
Auntie Mame is the rollicking story of a boy who when his father dies is sent to live with his flamboyant aunt, the title's Auntie Mame, who has becom...moreAuntie Mame is the rollicking story of a boy who when his father dies is sent to live with his flamboyant aunt, the title's Auntie Mame, who has become an icon of literature, as well as of stage and screen. She's marvelously vital and funny, and Dennis surrounds her with more wonderful characters: her best friend, Vera Charles, "a famous actress from Pittsburgh who spoke with such Mayfair elegance that you could barely understand a word she said"; her secretary, the mousy (and wonderfully named) Agnes Gooch; the Southern gentleman Beau Burnside; and many more. Around the World with Auntie Mame has the feel of an expected sequel and lacks a little of the flair of the original, but it's still pretty funny and definitely worth reading along with Auntie Mame.
And I have to finish by saying that, as much as I like Auntie Mame, I think it's one of the very few (maybe the only) cases I can think of where the movie is better than the book. Rosalind Russell is simply perfect as Auntie Mame, and the screenplay brings out the depth of the attachment between Mame and Patrick that's not quite as evident in the book. (less)
Genius is a hilarious social satire, taking on American expatriates in Mexico City, movie making, and even Dennis's own profession through the story o...moreGenius is a hilarious social satire, taking on American expatriates in Mexico City, movie making, and even Dennis's own profession through the story of Leander Starr, genius director. As in Auntie Mame, Dennis is the narrator who is unwillingly drawn into the madcap plots of Starr, who is desperately trying to reenter the movie business with a new film, which he draws Dennis into writing for him. The plot hangs together better than some of Dennis's other novels, and the satire is scathing, but the book really rests on the character of Starr: maddening, selfish, unscrupulous, yet utterly engaging and likable. Like Dennis, the reader is drawn into an almost unwilling sympathy and admiration for him and a compelling interest in following the course of his story. (less)