Friday, 26 May 2017

#10 A funny book

Carry On, Jeeves ­– P.G. Wodehouse (Who else?! ;)

Well, this review took some time since I decided to give another writer a chance. I looked up various book recommendations and finally settled in on reading David Sedaris’s comic memoir-cum-random-essays titled Me Talk Pretty One Day. Turns out he isn’t as funny as I thought he would be and I fail to see the hype constructed around him. If one book jacket is to be believed, this book by Sedaris  “[…]makes Oscar Wilde seem dull” (What?!!!!)  I was wishing that Wilde was alive and kicking to give an apt reply to that. Wilde is not dull, not ever. And Sedaris is not funny. Maybe a different kind of self-deprecating, misanthropic funny – but not my tumbler of filter kaapi.  

So, to cut a short story shorter, I had to read to restore my spirits. And I turned to the trusted P.G. Wodehouse. Wodehouse is utterly, properly and perfectly funny. I can’t really think of how I could do justice in a review, but I will try my best.

Pelham Grenville Wodehouse (1881—1975), English-born comic novelist, short-story writer, lyricist, and playwright, best known as the creator of bumbling Bertram (Bertie) Wooster and his genius of a gentleman's gentleman, Jeeves. These two form one of the funniest, and wittiest partnerships in the whole of English Literature. Admittedly there is a strong ‘Englishness’ about it, not a drop of real life simulation that many would rather like. It is the humorous adventure (or rather misadventures) of a gentleman, who lives in sufficient luxury with his trusted, loyal, highly efficient valet Jeeves, who can get him out of any tricky situation, which he gets into all the time. How the deuce can it be funny? (You may ask.) I don’t know myself. But, once you get into the Wodehouseisms, there is really no looking back.

Wooster and Jeeves
The stories in this book all follow a simple premise – Wooster , or one of his friends, gets themselves into an indescribably ludicrous situation from which there seems no probable escape. Until of course, Jeeves, steps in with a brainy scheme and all the problems are snozzled. Jeeves is simply a “one-man-chain-gang”, as Bertie puts it.  Wodehouse has mastered the technique of adhering to a formula without letting it go stale. My favourite part of Wodehouse’s writing is the slang that comes out of Wooster’s mouth. You probably wouldn’t recognize the exact meanings of these terms as such, but there is such zeal and enterprise in his sparkling wit that you will be thoroughly pipped  by it (see what I did there? ;)

This comic compilation of ten short stories of these two are peppered with usual assortment of charming characters like Aunt Dahlia, her French chef Anatole, Aunt Agatha, Sir Roderick Glossop and Richard P. Little a.k.a 'Bingo Little ', and is an easy to read volume.

Let me try and completely ruin the humour by attempting to recount at least one story here, so that one gets an idea of the ‘formula’ that we are speaking of. I will absolutely ruin it, I know, and you may think, "what exactly is it that she finds funny in this story?"….but really just read the actual thing – the magic lies in the pages itself.

So, let me proceed with my attempt -  in the first tale, we have Jeeves being engaged by Wooster, the man’s “a genius” as Bertie starts to tell us, he goes back to the time when after having recently employed “my man” Jeeves, he had gotten him out of a strange pickle. At the time, Bertie was engaged to Miss. Florence Craye, who was trying to improve Bertie by having him read Types of Ethical Theory – turns out ,it wasn’t really improving him.  And then it gets rummy. He receives a telegram from her asking him to get to Easeby immediately, which was his Uncle Willoughby’s residence. When he gets there she tells him that his Uncle is all set to publish his memoirs which includes a fair bit of ghastly details including many unpraiseworthy tales of her father as well. Since she was to be away from the place for a while, she asks, no……commands……. Bertie to make sure that the book never reaches the publisher’s hands. In short, he would have to steal it from right under his uncle’s watchful nose. Things get complicated when he does succeed in doing that, almost getting caught by his uncle at one point. Jeeves as usual glides in at the most appropriate time and gets the package hidden at first and later even sends it to the publisher with unexpected yet comic results. Miss Florence Craye promptly breaks off her engagement with Bertie which he comes to understand is not a bad thing after all, since she was going to make him read Nietzsche next. And as Jeeves not so subtly puts it, “you would not enjoy Nietzsche, sir. He is fundamentally unsound.”   

Whacky, wonderful, light, and fruity , it was a relief to turn to Wodehouse after my attempt to give another humourist a try. I realize that even Wodehouse may not be everyone’s cup of kaapi, but thankfully for me he has written enough books to last a lifetime. What ho! :D

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