Carry on, JeevesWritten by Reid Ahlbeck | | firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have never reveled in the deliciously hilarious writings of the inimitable Sir P[elham]. G[renville]. Wodehouse (1881-1975), it’s never too late to join in on the fun.
I am not aware he has any direct literary antecedents, but feel utterly safe in saying the humor of P. G. Wodehouse (the name, incidentally, is pronounced WOODhouse) is unparalleled in English letters. In the realm of high English farce, Wodehouse stands alone.
You will probably want to begin with the legendary ”Jeeves” series of tales (beginning with ”Carry On, Jeeves”) which chronicle the various misadventures of Bertram Wooster, Esq. and his irrepressible valet, Jeeves, the indispensable, quintessential and archetypal ”gentleman’s gentleman,” as the two gentrified gents gallivant about Edwardian England alternately becoming ensnared in and then inevitably effecting the improbable resolution of a wide assortment of intricate and absurd ”imbroglios.”
Think ”Brideshead Revisited” meets Monty Python meets Oscar Wilde meets the Marx Brothers meets Shakespeare’s ”Twelfth Night,” with generous dashes of Ogden Nash, Cole Porter and S. J. Perelman tossed in for good measure.
Add fancy jazz clubs, flowing champagne, sojourns to Blandings Castle, plush Bentleys and stylish two-seater roadsters, tailored suits, irate aunts, blushing damsels, burly constables, sumptuous suppers, temperamental French chefs, brash American businessmen and dusky-voiced flappers, insubordinate butlers, cricket matches, plus-fours, bowler hats, lawn parties, Boat Race Day — assorted run-ins, shenanigans, love trysts, escapades and hair-brained schemes involving the likes of Gussie Fink-Nottle, Tuppy Glossop, Madeline Basset, Lord Emsworth, Lady Agatha Worplesdon, The Rev. Aubrey Upjohn, Headmaster Malvern House Bramley-On Sea and sundry — an occasional unavoidable and well-intended burglary, unfortunate misunderstanding or regrettable appearance before the magistrate possibly even resulting in an impromptu overnighter in jug, narrow last-minute escapes from the clutches of matrimony, a couple of stiff pick-me-ups at The Drones Club … and you have the general gist of things.
The recorded books are every bit as enjoyable as the printed volumes. I especially recommend the spirited readings of Jonathan Cecil and Frederick Davidson.
For a more in-depth look at the life of the maestro there are several excellent biographies, the most recent being ”Wodehouse: A Life” by Robert McCrum.
If English Lit isn’t necessarily your thing and golf is more your bag, it just so happens one of Wodehouse’s best efforts pays side-splitting laugh-out-loud homage to ”the noble game.” Golf lovers can’t go wrong with a recording of ”The Clicking of Cuthbert,” read by Frederick Davidson.
Wodehouse is a man for all seasons — the perfect tonic for the downtrodden spirit. He deserves a permanent place in the literary canon and no discriminating reader’s bookshelf can be considered complete without at least one or two volumes of his best. As Evelyn Waugh so aptly put it, ”Wodehouse’s idyllic world can never stale … He has made [it] for us to live in and delight in.”
I probably shouldn’t tell you this since I depend on a steady supply for my own sustenance, but a respectable selection of Wodehousian high jinks — including recorded books and DVDs of the delightful ”Jeeves and Wooster” TV series starring Stephen Fry in his flawless portrayal of Jeeves and Hugh Laurie with his equally adept take on the bumbling Bertie Wooster — can be found at our beloved Toledo-Lucas County Public Library.
Columnist Reid Ahlbeck may be contacted at email@example.com.