Wotcher, lovely people!
So this is the first in what will hopefully turn into a series of book/movie/tv series reviews. I’m thinking this could be a good exercise for me while giving you entertainment suggestions for your lazy Sunday afternoons. Win-win, right? Right! So let’s start. This is an oldie. I wrote this as part of my Master’s degree, back in 2013, but don’t you know, I think it holds up pretty nicely. I hope it’s as fun to read as it was to write.
Enjoy! Or not. You do you.
When endeavouring to comment upon the work of Mr P.G. Wodehouse, one must wander around the superlative shop with an eye out for discount offers. Now I don’t want to seem over-enthusiastic or anything, but I will go so far as to say that there is a decent chance the chap might be the most talented wordsmith I have ever had the good fortune to read. He’s got it, don’t you know.
Should you chance to open the collection of short stories titled Carry On, Jeeves, the first in a remarkable series, you will meet characters so alive with clumsiness and colourful expressions that they will have you spout out nonsense like “this guy is so improbably absurd that he must be real”. Bertie Wooster will entertain you with some delightful anecdotes from his eccentric life, all of which involve a “kind of darkish sort of respectful Johnnie” of a manservant called Jeeves, who quietly shuffles into his life one day and just as quietly takes over the household. About Jeeves, what can I say? The first thing you learn about him is that “the man’s a genius”. These credentials make him the person to ask when, say, you want to get rid of a manuscript you stole, or need to make a young lady understand that your friend is desperately smitten. Jeeves will always come up with a cunning plan to solve the whole thing, and still manage to get his way every single time. If Jeeves doesn’t like your tie, then by Jove you’ll have thrown it away by the end of the week.
Now Mr Wooster, in his own words “an optimist” and “all for rational enjoyment and so forth”, is the ideal narrator. He will have you laughing your lungs out without even trying to make any jokes. In fact, he probably wouldn’t understand why you are not taking him seriously. He will address you directly with a clear “you know” and yet never will you feel like his voice is forced upon you, nor will these addresses ever get in the way of the story moving forward. For Carry On, Jeeves is first and foremost an utterly enjoyable read.
When I picked it up to write a few words about it, I found I could not put it down, although I’d already read it and, in fact, knew it inside out and upside down. P.G. Wodehouse has this way of sucking you in and keeping you hooked. And I don’t mean in a suspense-y Dan Brown-y way. You keep reading because of the writing (as it should be with every book, let’s just put that out there). If you’ve read as much as four books – well, let’s say five, one doesn’t like to boast – you will know a master storyteller when you see one. It doesn’t take an amazing, knows-all-Proust-by-heart-and-in-French-too, reader to recognize that Mr Wodehouse knows what he’s doing. Every story feels controlled from the first word to the last, neatly tied up in a simple but solid little knot. And on top of all that, it’s dashed clever. There is a good chance that reading Wodehouse will improve your vocabulary. Looking for a new way to call your auntie? How about “old flesh and blood”? Or maybe you want to compliment your friends on their superior intellect? Try “from the collar upward you stand alone”. I guarantee you will make an impression.
What I mean to say is: how often do you find light reading that’s also great literature?
When you consider just how cheap the good old Penguin edition is – and even when you don’t consider it, come to that – there is really no excuse for you not to have Jeeves on your bookshelf. Believe me, he is the kind of man you want around the house.