I saw all, and the thought of how near I had come to marrying a female novelist made everything go black for a bit.
Understandably so. After all:
One has, of course, to make allowances for writers, all of them being more or less loony. Look at Shakespeare, for instance. Very unbalanced. Used to go about stealing ducks.
Bertie has a bee in his bonnet about Shakespeare in this one. Later, he even invokes the old 'who wrote Shakespeare's works?' debate:
If you analysed it, it was the old Bacon and Shakespeare gag. Bacon, as you no doubt remember, wrote Shakespeare’s stuff for him and then, possibly because he owed the latter money or it may be from sheer good nature, allowed him to take the credit for it.
The plot is negligible and its machinery may be a little slacker than in some of the other Jeeves novels, but otherwise Wodehouse is in top form. His farces are always simple comedies of errors, or as Bertie himself puts it: 'As perfect an instance of one damn' thing after another as I have ever experienced.'
But what strikes me most is how in love with language and writing everybody is here – both the writer and his characters. After all, Bertie is forever asking Jeeves how to say things:
'What's the word that means making somebody froth at the mouth and chew pieces out of the carpet?' '"Alienate", sir, is, I think, the verb for which you are groping.'
And later on his cousin Nobbie suggests:
'"Mud", I think, is the mot juste, Bertie?'
Leading Bertie to remark, later on: '"Jeeves," I said, or perhaps it would be mot juster to say I thundered.' (less)
So Wodehouse could be funny when he wasn't writing about Wooster and Jeeves too. Very entertaining, and hasn't dated a bit, it seems to me. In fact, i...moreSo Wodehouse could be funny when he wasn't writing about Wooster and Jeeves too. Very entertaining, and hasn't dated a bit, it seems to me. In fact, it's interesting to see how in 1916 new methods of advertisement could make Wodehouse cringe, and how they had their Bernie Madoffs too.
Of the three Jeeves novels I've read so far – this one, Thank You, Jeeves and Right Ho Jeeves &ndash I like the latter best, and I'm not entirely...moreOf the three Jeeves novels I've read so far – this one, Thank You, Jeeves and Right Ho Jeeves &ndash I like the latter best, and I'm not entirely sure whether that's because the first I ever read, or because it really is a notch above the others. I incline to the latter viewpoint, but I'm not entirely sure.
In any case, there's quite enough raving silliness in this novel to keep one going.(less)
This is much more brilliant than I'd expected on the basis of its reputation. I thought it would have...moreP.G. Wodehouse, where have you been all my life?
This is much more brilliant than I'd expected on the basis of its reputation. I thought it would have been slightly stuffy and old-fashioned. Instead, it's very stylish and terribly well-written, a comedic "rollercoaster", to abuse that stupid cliche. And quite simply very, very funny.
Wodehouse had me riveted from the start with the tone of his narrator, Bertie Wooster, and his radical anti-intellectualism.
I don't want to wrong anybody, so I won't go so far as to say that she actually wrote poetry, but her conversation, to my mind, was of a nature calculated to excite the liveliest suspicions.
It's like reading a 200 page rant by a slightly thinner Boris Johnson.
And surely the postmodernists must relish the "metafictional" character of some of Wodehouse's prose and narrative. I shouldn't to make too much of the start of the novel, yet within this traditionalist context it does have at least a faintly experimental ring. The novel starts with five entirely enigmatic lines of dialogue, and then this:
No—wait. Hold the line a minute. I've gone off the rails. I don't know if you have had the same experience, but the snag I always come up against when I'm telling a story is this dashed difficult problem of where to begin it. It's a thing you don't want to go wrong over, because one false step and you're sunk. I mean, if you fool about too long at the start, trying to establish atmosphere, as they call it, and all that sort of rot, you fail to grip and the customers walk out on you.
So this is going to be a novel about telling. Then later on, it struck me that much of the comedy is also centered around talk, speech, communication.
Take the scene where Bertie explains to Jeeves how difficult it is to propose to a women.
Use your intelligence, Jeeves. Reflect what proposing means. It means that a decent, self-respecting chap has got to listen to himself saying things which, if spoken on the silver screen, would cause him to dash to the box-office and demand his money back.
And bit further on, after Jeeves' answering "Sir?", Bertie
I have already had occasion, Jeeves, [...] to comment on the way you say 'Well, sir' and 'Indeed, sir?' I take this opportunity of informing you that I object equally strongly to your 'Sir?' pure and simple.
Surely this is enough to anyone reveling in theories about signifiers & signifieds. (Let alone when the discussion next lingers on the theme of parrots.)
In any case, Bertie's idea to help a friend propose is simple:
Only active measures, promptly applied, can provide this poor, pusillanimous poop with the proper pep. And that is why, Jeeves, I intend tomorrow to secure a bottle of gin and lace his luncheon orange juice with it liberally.
And this indulgence in downright intoxicated alliteration is another highlight for me. Pure comedic poetry.
Just a few more language-oriented and/or "metafictional" quotes:
"So!" he said at length, and it came as a complete surprise to me that fellows ever do really say "So!" I had always thought it was just a thing you read in books. Like "Quotha!" I mean to say, or "Odd bodikins" or even "Eh, ba goom!"
"Come, come, Tuppy, don't let us let this little chat become acrid. Is 'acrid' the word I want?" "I couldn't say," he replied, beginning to sidle round the bench.
At this point, Aunt Dahlia, who had taken one nibble at her whatever-it-was-on-toast and laid it down, begged us—a little fretfully, I thought—for heaven's sake to cut out the cross-talk vaudeville stuff, as she had enough to bear already without having to listen to us doing our imitation of the Two Macs.
I have always found that there is nothing that helps to ease you over one of these awkward moments like a spot of stage business. Find something to do with your hands, and it's half the battle. I grabbed a plate and hastened forward. "A touch of salmon?"