When I started writing this post I was ten days away from moving my bodily self across the seas to live in a different country for a while. I was packing up most of my earthly possessions into boxes once more (seriously, how many times can I do this in two years?), and trying to decide just how many favourite things and necessities of life I could stuff into a suitcase. For this reason, the posts have been a little slow going (sorry Postaweek commitment!), but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading…
What it does mean is that over the last month my brain has been a little overfull so forgive the potential nonsense which may spout forth over the next few weeks, well, more nonsense than usual. You may also need to forgive the lack of detail on the books being discussed, as the finer points fade off into that part of my brain where thoughts go to hibernate.
When I was in high school an Anglophile friend encouraged me to read PG Wodehouse and I fell in book-love with the Jeeves and Wooster stories. There is something so delightful in the pip-pip, good-show optimism of Bertie Wooster and the ever-present dryness of the more-than-capable Jeeves. Back in the day, among the frantic studying and analysis of the likes of Joyce, Donne, Yeats and Bronte, Wodehouse offered a delightful distraction of boater hats, toast and tea, and frightful great aunts.
A friend from work and I recently foisted Wodehouse, in the form of Thank You, Jeeves, onto our book group. We are both big fans and wanted others to experience the affection we feel. In the wash-up it probably wasn’t the perfect book-group choice—not because people didn’t like it but because there’s nothing overly meaty in Wodehouse to sink one’s book-group choppers into. It was a case of ‘Yes, I quite enjoyed that. Another glass of wine?’
But then, sometimes it’s nice to read a book for the sole reason that you know you’ll have a good time. Like going to a musical or dancing to disco, the world’s not going to change but you’re sure going to leave with a smile on your face. And leave with a smile on my face I did as Bertie moves to the country to avoid the ire of his London neighbours after he practises his banjo-playing too enthusiastically, and then finds himself stuck in the general confusion of his friend’s engagement, an ex-fiancee’s father wanting his head on a stick, some over enthusiastic local police officers, and Jeeves seeming to be in the service of everyone except him!
My one criticism of Thank You, Jeeves is that it could be a tighter story. This was the first Jeeves and Wooster novel Wodehouse wrote, having previously presented their adventures in short-story form, and I got the feeling, perhaps from pure excitement at suddenly having so many more words available to him, that he overdid it a bit. It doesn’t destroy the experience, you just occasionally come to a point and think, ‘Okay, enough with this bit, let’s move on PG.’ And soon enough he does.
The Anglophile friend who introduced me to PG Wodehouse and Jeeves and Wooster moved to London 10 years ago and has lived here ever since. Though it now bares only a small resemblance to the London of Bertram Wilberforce Wooster, I like to think that the Wodehouse stories helped her along a bit as she was setting herself up. And I like to think they will do the same for me. If not in any practical sense, at least the sweet entertainment of a comical genius will keep me chuckling in those far-away-from-home times.