Carry On, Jeeves

Author: P.G. Wodehouse

Type: Fiction, short stories

Published: 1925

I read it: September 2015

jeeves

The esteemed Jeeves is the “gentleman’s personal gentleman” to the bumbling Bertie Wooster. They are a classic comic pair who have reverberated throughout British literature and beyond. Jeeves, after all, did have a browser named after him in the 90s due to his status as the stereotypical wise butler.

My wife and I read these stories to each other on car trips starting in the warm months of 2014, and finally finished late the following year. It’s a short book but there is a lot of narrative repetition. The running bit is that Wooster falls into a ridiculous sitcom scenario, usually involving a social enemy, an ill-matched love interest, or a worrisome old aunt. He narrates his stories with lines like, “I might be a chump, but, dash it, I could out-general a mere kid with a face like a ferret.” He’s always calling people chumps. It’s great.

By the time the book winds down we get a dose of self-awareness from the characters. At one point someone mentions Bertie’s aunt and he has to respond, “Which blasted aunt? Specify, old thing. I have so many.” Then the final story, in an elegant little twist, is told by Jeeves himself. I don’t think I’d appreciate a whole Jeeves/Wooster novel, but in small doses it’s pretty amusing stuff. Though I hear that in some circles, the short stories are not considered as worthy as the novels.

Music corner: The first time I heard the name P.G. Wodehouse was in the staple John K. Samson song “Anchorless,” which I will always associate with the author. A decade and a half or so later I finally got around to reading the guy. By the way, in the song John pronounces it “Wood-house.” Is that correct? (Looked it up and from what I can gather from the Wikipedia symbols, that’s the right way. Also, “P.G.” stands for “Pelham Grenville.” Excellent.)

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