Wednesday, February 01, 2006

4. Right Ho, Jeeves

by P.G. Wodehouse

I picked up my first P.G. Wodehouse on the raving recommendations of the Chickliterati and an early post from Doppleganger on Wodehouse being one of her go-to’s for comfort reading. I was a little hesitant to start in on the British series because you know how it is when everyone tells you something’s hilarious, you have to read or see it, and then you end up disappointed because they went and got your expectations all high. Also, I’m not the tiniest bit British and sometimes the humor goes over my head.

I’ve rarely found the Chickliterati do me wrong and this case was no exception. In Right Ho, Jeeves, Bertie Wooster finds himself in the middle of two lovers’ quarrels and takes it as his duty to set the relationship right. On the one side we have Gussie Fink-Nottle, hopelessly in love with Madeline Basset but scared out of his mind to do anything about it, and on the other side we have Tuppy Glossop and his fiancé Angela, Bertie’s cousin, whose engagement is on the brink of destruction. With Jeeves in tow, Bertie heads to his Aunt Dahlia’s to fix everyone’s predicaments.

What’s so funny, and what I didn’t expect, was how incredibly arrogant Bertie is. As the narrator of the story, we’re completely inside Bertie’s head, but we’re also very aware of how badly he’s messing things up. When Aunt Dahlia has a fight with her husband Tom, Bertie manages to convince the three wounded parties – Dahlia, Tuppy, and Gussie – to push back their plates at dinner, letting their feigned lack of appetite show how upset they are. All find this a difficult task since the chef, Anatole, is a culinary master and so greatly is his food loved that when he sees the three plates sent back untouched, Anatole announces his resignation. Bertie later convinces Gussie that alcohol is the only way he’ll ever get up the nerve to confess his feelings for Madeline, but when he gets drunk on his own, then downs the pitcher of spiked orange juice that Bertie planned on slipping to him, he ends up making a fool of himself during an award ceremony. Jeeves tries to warn him about the flaws in his plans, but Bertie’s so convinced that only he can mend things that it’s not until Jeeves manages to send Bertie off during a false fire alarm that Jeeves corrects his follies.

“We Woosters are ingenious, Jeeves, exceedingly ingenious…As a matter of fact, I am not speaking without a knowledge of the form book. I have tested this theory,” Bertie says, explaining how his plan to insult Tuppy’s character will cause Angela to rise to his defense, a plan that backfires when Angela simply agrees with his criticisms. But even better than Bertie’s haughty attitude are the social observations he makes. Of the argument that caused Angela and Tuppy’s breakup, one in which Tuppy shot down Angela’s story of when she was almost eaten by a shark, he says, “I must say I saw the girl’s viewpoint. It’s only about once in a lifetime that anything sensational ever happens to one, and when it does, you don’t want people taking all the colour out of it.” And when trying to convince Jeeves of the necessity of alcohol to Gussy’s proposing he says, “Use your intelligence, Jeeves. Reflect what proposing means. It means that a decent, self-respecting chap has got to listen to himself saying things which, if spoken on the silver screen, would cause him to dash to the box-office and demand his money back.”

Hilarious, no?

Well, maybe you can’t tell it from what I’m saying here, but trust me, Wodehouse is a literary force not to be missed. There are lots more laughs to be had in Right Ho, Jeeves and as one who uses the phrase “laugh out loud” only non-literally, I can say that I definitely giggled audibly. You can expect more Jeeves and Wooster in the future; after all, thousands of Chickliterati can’t be wrong.


Anonymous Pooja Makhijani said...

Yay! I am so glad you are hooked on P.G. Wodehouse. Next, try THE MATING SEASON and THE CODE OF THE WOOSTERS (my favorite). I promise you won't be disappointed.

2:32 PM  

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