With little energy left for serious reading at home, I have been picking books that are easy and fun. The Inimitable Jeeves is the third book to feature Jeeves and Wooster in 11 loosely connected short stories. This is the first Wodehouse book, in chronological order, where I actually see a full story emerge from the serially arranged stories.
The book centers around a chap named Bingo, a friend of Bertie, the type of friend who is worse than an enemy. He is living off a stipend from his uncle and is falling left and right at every woman he sees. And it takes all the energy of Jeeves and Wooster to pull him out of the capers he keeps falling into.
This book was very funny and was a joy to ride along. I felt that the betting story, The Great Sermon Handicap, stuck out like a sore thumb by being extremely boring and pointless. Minus that story, this Wodehouse is a great stressbuster.
There are few authors who can deliver as reliable a dose of fun as Wodehouse. Especially when the inimitable Jeeves and Wooster are involved. I’ve been chewing through the Jeeves-Wooster bookshelf in chronological order and for the last few weekends my entertainer was My Man Jeeves.
The short stories in this collection from 1919 feature the second major appearance of the J-W duo. (They first appeared in The Man with Two Left Feet). Also making an entry is Reggie Pepper, who is nothing but another version of Bertie. The plots of the duo gave such a heavy deja vu that I’m pretty sure these were used in the Jeeves and Wooster TV series. (If you’ve not seen it yet: it stars Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry and is exquisite, need I say more?)
All the familiar Wodehouse tropes are here: nosy aunts and uncles, girls, inheritance, high society parties and mixups that will magically get corrected before the end. Thinking about the depiction of aunts and uncles, maybe that is one reason why Wodehouse found such a popular audience in India!
The problem with My Man Jeeves is that many of the plots are too similar to each other. Wodehouse is always guilty of predictability, but putting these stories together in the same collection is pure laziness. In any case, this is a breezy rib-tickling read.
She was rather like one of those innocent-tasting American drinks which creep imperceptibly into your system so that, before you know what you’re doing, you’re starting out to reform the world by force if necessary and pausing on your way to tell the large man in the corner that, if he looks at you like that, you will knock his head off.
After many years of reading Wodehouse books in a scatter-shot fashion, I picked a 1917 collection of his short stories titled The Man with Two Left Feet. I chose this one particularly because I learnt that it features the first appearance of the inimitable Wooster and Jeeves. The 13 stories in this book are mostly lighthearted, a few are sad and cover a spectrum of people and situations, set either in London or New York. But all of them have the Wodehouse stamp: a quirky hand-of-fate event at the end that sets everything right.
I found a few of the stories worth a note. Extricating Young Gussie has the famous Gussie and Aunt Agatha, in addition to introducing Wooster and Jeeves. There are two stories of life amidst humans from the point-of-view of a puppy titled The Mixer. The first one, where the innocent puppy discovers life with his new master is particularly charming, probably my pick of this book. Almost half the stories deal with love and most of those have that O’Henry feel and twist.
Not having read any short stories of Wodehouse, I must say I was pleasantly surprised to see his range outside of Jeeves. Even in these early works, one can see the appearance of his trademark wit and charm. The collection is suitable for easy noon reading and sure to make you snicker along with the pages.
Read a Wodehouse book, Laughing Gas this weekend. Reggie is an Earl who looks like a gorilla, but soft at heart. He is sent to the US by his aunt to bring back his cousin Eggy who is in Hollywood and has got engaged to a commoner there. During his journey across America, Reggy falls in love with a delicate actress named April June. In Hollywood, Reggie discovers that his cousin has engaged to Ann, who is his old flame!
Things start to get complicated when Reggie goes to a dentist to have his teeth extracted. When under the influence of gas, his soul gets exchanged with that of Joel Cooley, a Hollywood child star who is also at the dentist. Now, with the body of Cooley, Reggie finds himself beset with the former’s troubles and also needs to keep in touch with June. He soon discovers that June’s love for him is just for his wealth and also that he still loves Ann. The threads tie together cleanly and all ends well.
The book is filled with the trademark Wodehouse humor. Also, this was interesting since it was a non-Jeeves story. Laughing Gas is a fast paced humorous read with zero dull moments.
Rating: 4/4 (Hilarious!)
Read a Wodehouse after a gap of many years, The Code Of The Woosters. As always, simple minded Bertie is in the soup. He has gotten on the wrong side of Sir Watkyn Bassett and his close pal Spode for trying to grab a silverware for his Uncle Tom, which Bassett had an eye on. Aunt Dahlia (Tom’s wife) sends him to Totleigh Towers to steal it. Also, at Totleigh Towers, Bertie’s pal Gussie is preparing to get married to Madeline (Watkyn’s daughter). Meanwhile, Stiffy (Watkyn’s nice) is in love with Pinker (another pal of Bertie). When Bertie arrives at Totleigh Towers, everything that can go wrong with the lives of these people, breaks loose. And all of them are aimed at Bertie! Bertie faces all of it with the help of his faithful butler Jeeves and all ends well.
If there were no sitcom on TV, Wodehouse would have invented it! This book is filled with outlandish characters, outrageous dialogues, all set in rich classic Britain. I could not help laughing out loud while reading this book. Between all these stormy characters is the real hero of the books — Jeeves with his cucumber cool air. Wodehouse cannot be explained, his books have to be read. I see a definite (Bollywood?) movie potential in his books. In case you were wondering, The Code Of The Woosters is “Never let a pal down.”