25 August 2008

Wodehouse Woes

O Wooster, Bertie Wooster! Where the hell did you go, Bertram Wooster?
Deny thy borrower and return to me,
Or, if thou wilt not, at least send me Jeeves,
And I'll no longer be a raving bitch about all the books I've lost.

With apologies to Mr. Shakespeare, but this is a real tragedy. My entire Wodehouse collection has gone astray! I am kneeling down like the Infant Samuel at prayer in hopes of its safe return. How could I have let these books out of my sight? As Bertie Wooster might say, "the imagination boggles."

To end this series on ex-books, I turn to the catalyst for the creation of the entire List. Indeed, sir, it was my search for my P.G. Wodehouse books which first alerted me to the fact that my scruples need some fine tuning in the borrower/lender relationship department.

A couple weeks ago I had an urge to spend my afternoon with the idle rich-- a Wodehouse specialty. I looked over my shelves to no avail. I walked up to the library and paid $23.75 in library fines (an occupational hazard of the irresponsible dramaturg) before I realized that this branch had just one Wodehouse in its stacks and it did not include the antics of my two favorite characters. It was about golf. I read one of the stories, but it was not as amusing as anything involving Aunt Agatha or a silver cow creamer.

I even stepped into the little bookshop around the corner to see if I could get my hands on a copy. But this tiny (but excellent) source only had Carry On, Jeeves on hand. This is a collection of short stories concerning Jeeves and Wooster. But I was in the mood for a novel. And, being that I just paid a large fee to the library, I wasn't about to settle for anything less than a full Wodehousian novel.

I've long been besotted with the Jeeves and Wooster crew. I first read their exploits when I was quite young. My sister, eight years my elder, often passed along her literary leftovers. Being the reverent-yet-obnoxious younger sibling, I would badger her for the books she was reading incessantly, even if the books weren't entirely age appropriate for me.

Unlike many of J's books, I thought Wooster and Jeeves were actually funny. They also didn't make me ask her questions like, "Why are the pigs calling each other 'Comrade'?" My sister was wise enough not to justify such queries with a response Instead, she would narrow her eyes, glaring acerbically through her thick, barely fluttering eyelashes. This is a trick I am still trying to learn today because it looks so cool and is highly effective. (Even with years of practice, I am not having much luck.)

Perhaps because of my introduction to this literary duo, I feel as if there is almost an allegorical correlation between the gentleman and his valet and myself and my sister. She is my Jeeves; I am her Bertie Wooster. While we were growing up, I was continuously concocting these impulsive schemes. She would sit back, half amused by my antics but very much operating her own more wisely constructed plots.

As our age gap has leveled out, I am less prone to such antics and J rarely needs to bail me out of whatever predicament I have fallen into. Besides, my Libran need for balance has caused me to embrace my latent Jeeves-like qualities. Or, maybe I've never been quite so feckless as Bertie but I really want the correlation to jive.

In any case, I've come to appreciate the Wooster and Jeeves novels on different terms over the years. I can think of few writers that equal Wodehouse's dexterous use of a structured comedy. Very little is off limits when it comes to his satire-- from British Gentleman's social clubs (The Drones) to fascism (Spode's Black Shorts). To add a cherry to the sundae, Wodehouse's playful and buoyant command of language is a sheer delight to read.

And this is precisely why I loaned these books out in the first place. Each borrower has an affinity for comedy, either written or performed. As much as I laugh when I'm around them, I find that lacking my Wodehouse novels is no laughing matter. Further absence of these books might lead me to do something brash like buying a terrarium and a new pet newt (to be named Gussie Fink-Nottle). Without further delay:

By Jeeves! (a final fragment in a long list of books)
The Code of the Woosters

Right Ho, Jeeves

The Inimitable Jeeves

Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves

Perhaps those friends I've loaned my Wodehouse books are too busy reading Aunt Dahlia's magazine, Milady's Boudoir? But I say enough with this witch hunt. As a thank you for sloughing through this series, I'll leave you with the some clips from the Jeeves and Wooster television series. It's not quite the same as the books, but my raging crush on Stephen Fry makes up for that.

Jeeves makes his acquaintance and one of his famous hangover cures.



Jeeves offers Bertie some musical direction.

5 comments:

Prince Gomolvilas said...

I love that series!!!!! So so so clever and funny.

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