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The Jeeves Omnibus – Review – ****

More Jeeves!

I read this one in Thailand, which was a nice way to unwind after a long day of shrimp research, touring excursions, social outings, and homework. Frankly, after having read so many Wodehouse books for this little assignment, I have indeed encountered that which I feared so many months ago: I have run out of new ways to say I enjoy P.G.’s enormously entertaining, but fairly formulaic works. As I said last time, this problem is especially evident in his short stories, so this brick of a collection of them is pretty much more of the same (not the least because 10 of the short stories from that last book, Carry On, Jeeves, were included here*).

So the only new thing I have to talk about here is Wodehouse’s introduction, which reveals a humble, kind, gently funny man with a fond attachment to the characters he created, and a pretty good idea of the extents of his talent, and his place in literary history. I hope very much that this was what he was like in real life. I have a biography of him in my To Read pile, which I hope will reveal a bit more about him (but that will be part of my next book-related project). Can you imagine Wodehouse as a young man? Can you imagine a young man even coming up with these stories? They seem like the sort of alternate-universe history that an older author might tell with the prelude “in my day, this was what it was like…” Grandpa’s stories of another, smaller, simpler, better world. I guess this just goes back to what I said in my last review (again):

[E]ven when not actually laughing out loud, Wodehouse still makes me smile – his stories and tone have such a warm feeling, like coming home, and nothing ever goes too badly wrong.

I’ve given this one 4 stars because, as it includes almost all of the Jeeves/Wooster stories, it is packed with the best and the worst, and since the worst Wodehouse is, to me, worth a great deal more than the worst of ,many other authors, the very good (4-5 stars) outweighs the very mediocre (2.5-3 stars), and averages out to a nice round 4.

At this point, I am literally just writing to fill space (as if you couldn’t tell), so I’m off to write an essay about shrimp aquaculture.

*But yes, I’m still counting this as a new and separate book, because the thing was over 700 pages, and those 10 took up between 200-300. I think having read 400+ new pages book can count as its own separate book, thank you very much.

Cannonball Read III: 14/52

Carry On, Jeeves – Review – ***1/2

I chose this book, a collection of 10 short stories, about half of which were re-reads, for my next review because I am getting a bit discouraged about my book total, and Wodehouses are quick and easy to read. If, come November, I’m still hopelessly far behind, I’m going to start reviewing children’s books. But anyway.

I have come to the conclusion that Jeeves is a manipulative bastard who enjoys putting his obliging and feeble-minded master in difficult situations for a laugh. I approve of this practice.

The last short was told from Jeeves’ POV, which, in my experience so far, is pretty rare. Wodehouse stories tend to run together, especially the shorts, but I am pleased to say that I was, with about 90% accuracy, able to tell which ones I had read before. I enjoyed most of the stories, but found this collection particularly repetitive.

In general, I like Wodehouse’s full-length novels better than his short stories. They let him build, they let the mix-ups get more intense and bizarre, and they’re slightly less formulaic and repetitive; the short stories have a tendency to become a bit rote when many are read in a row:

  • Bertie is happy
  • Bertie’s friend is in a jam/Bertie’s aunt or family member is being a nightmare/Bertie is accidentally engaged
  • Bertie is sad
  • Jeeves is tasked with solving the problem
  • I bet THIS time it’s too much for Jeeves!
  • a roundabout solution with a wide margin for error is pulled off without a hitch/with a hitch fully foreseen by Jeeves
  • Bertie is happy
  • Bertie gets rid of item of dress that Jeeves doesn’t like
  • Jeeves is happy
  • repeat

Bertie gets all of the blame and none of the credit, while giving in to friends and endearingly admitting to a distinct lack of brains, which makes me feel worse for him than I think we’re supposed to. Still, even when not actually laughing out loud, Wodehouse still makes me smile – his stories and tone have such a warm feeling, like coming home, and nothing ever goes too badly wrong. In this collection, there is a very strong father/son vibe between Jeeves and Wooster, especially in the earlier stories.

In short, I love Wodehouse, and this collection showcased plenty of his goodness, but it’s by no means my favourite of his efforts.

Also, it appears that Pierce Hawthorne was not he who coined the phrase “streets ahead,” as I saw it used (in the appropriate manner) on page 141, in the story “The Rummy Affair of Old Biffy” (which, incidentally, was my favourite in the collection).

Cannonball Read III: 13/52

Much Obliged, Jeeves – Review – *****

Oh, how I love this man. It’s tempting, when reading the work of a master, to want to match your review to the talent reviewed. I’m not even going to try. My humour writing attempts are basically collections of of swear words and complaining loudly. Wodehouse makes art out of every whimsical sentence. He is proof that whoever said “all good comedy comes from pain” was talking total rubbish. I’m pretty much hoping that if I read enough Wodehouse in a row, some of it will rub off on me and I’ll send everyone I walk past into fits of laughter after simply commenting on the time. I can’t express in words how much I adore a good Wodehouse.

In fact, I have enjoyed the hell out of every single P.G. Wodehouse book I have read so far, but I couldn’t for the life of me differentiate between the plot of one and the plot of another, except to say “This one has Jeeves in it!” and “This one was one of the other ones!”

No one reads Wodehouse for the story. They read him for the language.

This creates a bit of a problem for reviewers, as you can’t very well write the same review for twelve different books, can you?

Can you?

Well, I can’t really justify including another P.G. in my year’s CBR (and there are several lined up) if I’m just going to copy and paste the above paragraphs, so I’ll try to write something specific to Much Obliged, Jeeves.

This one’s about Bertie Wooster’s visit to his more tolerant aunt in Market Snodsbury, where he goes in order to help out an old friend run for political office. While there, he runs into not one but two of his many ex-fiances and struggles mightily to maintain the ex- status. Meanwhile, in Jeeves’ world, the Book of Revelations (the book of the Junior Ganymede gentlemen’s gentlemen memorializing the habits and activities of those gentlemen’s gentlemen’s gentlemen), formerly thought to be safely under lock and key, has been stolen. Naturally, and as usual, Jeeves’ brain is expected to save the day, but not before some good, old fashioned, what-I-imagine-to-be-the-pre-TV-version-of-sitcominess ensues.

Did any of that make sense to you? Doesn’t matter. Not the point.

I picked up this book a couple weeks ago in Chapters, because I thought I had a gift certificate with me, and when it turned out I’d left it at home, it wasn’t like I was going to just not by the book or something. I had a pile of similarly bound Wodehouses in hand, and while I couldn’t justify buying all five of them, I figured one for the bus ride back was perfectly reasonable. But how to choose?

I read the first couple of sentences from each pile-member, but when I got to the following passage:

‘These eggs, Jeeves,’ I said. ‘Very good. Very tasty.’

‘Yes sir?’

‘Laid, no doubt, by contented hens.’

I knew there was but one book for me.

And, I’m happy to say, it was a damn good choice.

As I mentioned above, I haven’t come across a bad Wodehouse yet, but this one was exceptional. I smiled at every page, I laughed embarrassingly in public places; at several points I may or may not have actually hugged the book. If you want a dose of Bertie and Jeeves, you could definitely do worse than this one.

 

Cannonball Read III: 3/52