... but I stopped. Now I'm a dad, and may blog again...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

188: All perfectly true, no doubt.

While I am still reading Don Quixote it has become something to be dipped into occasionally.  Happily its chapters are the perfect length for a sit-down stop-off in the bathroom, but its archaic cock-and-bull/shaggy-dog style makes it tough bedtime reading.  A lighter alternative I have chosen for myself is P.G. Wodehouse’s The World of Jeeves.  I’ve read this before but it’s light, highly amusing and has nice easy to follow plots about posho-silliness.  It is has the kind of stories that deem it perfectly ok to end with an apropos of nothing line like ‘Well, I mean to say, what? Absolutely!’  Typical dialogue proceeds thusly:

‘This is a rotten country,’ said Cyril.
‘Oh, I don’t know, you know, don’t you know!’ I said.
‘We do our best,’ said George.
‘Old George is an American,’ I explained.  ‘Writes plays, don’t you know, and what not.’


‘This is rummy, Jeeves!’
‘Yes, sir?’
‘Very rummy and dashed disturbing!’
‘Will there be anything further tonight, sir?’

Poor Bertie Wooster has a terrifically hard lot and in the short story Jeeves and the Chump Cyril he takes time to note that ’half the trouble in this bally world is caused by the light-hearted and thoughtless way in which chappies dash off letters of introduction and hand them to other chappies to deliver to chappies of the third part...’ and ‘the result is that some perfectly harmless cove like myself gets in the soup’.  Dear me, poor Mr. Wooster.  Oh, to be amongst the idle rich, living in country piles and town houses, darting from club to club for a quick bracer with the boys.  Oh no, my misadventures have got me into a slight pickle.  Fortunately I have a gentleman’s gentleman with a brain on him like a what-not that can create the best possible outcome from any rum do.

It’s impossible not to read without using the Fry and Laurie characterisation in your head, which is by far and away a good thing.  They may have made four series (23 episodes) but this isn’t nearly enough.  Most of the episodes were constructed using various elements for different stories, but even so there must have been loads more to dramatise.  Wikipedia tells me there were 35 short stories and 11 novels in the Jeeves canon, leaving me with waves of Wodehouse left to drown myself in.  Hugh Laurie, forget the $400,000+ per episode that America are paying you for House; come home and make more Jeeves and Wooster for Granada Television.

Everyone should love Jeeves and Wooster, from proud but gently self-mocking Englishmen to foreign fellows who think we all live in this timeless, pre-Great War fiction.  Some bright cove has even mocked up a cover for a Jeeves and Wooster DS game; jolly good wheeze, I should think, don’t you know!  Anyway, I was having much more fun reading the stories than I am writing about them, so off I pop; ‘it is my practise at this hour to read some improving book...’  Or maybe I’ll just put the DVD on...

1 comment:

jakesask said...

In Hugh Laurie's episode of Desert Island Discs, he stated that they had really used up all of Wodehouse's J&W storylines by the end of the 4th series, and the storylines were starting to repeat, which was a bit embarrassing. I think he said that one show would basically cover an entire novel. I recently read Right Ho, Jeeves and I can see that this would be true. A lot of writing goes into description and scene setting, but we can see it all in a split-second on the screen.

I've also heard Laurie say in a couple interviews (on Parkinson, for sure) that by the end of the 4th series he was really too old (and becoming too obviously bald) to play Bertie anymore, given that Bertie is supposed to be in his early-to-mid 20s.

I agree that after you've watched the shows, it's impossible to read the Jeeves books without hearing Fry & Laurie in one's head. I never would have read the books at all if I hadn't seen the show first, because I knew nothing of Wodehouse; as far as I can see, his works aren't terribly popular in Canada among those not majoring in English literature. I adore Fry & Laurie and am definitely quite content to have them in mind when reading Wodehouse!