Thursday, October 4, 2012

Thank you, Jeeves

Are we having fun yet?
After the debate last night, I thought we could all use a little humor! Today our topic is the inimitable P. G. Wodehouse (a.k.a. Sir Pelham Grenville Wodehouse, KBE). We have some spiffy uniform editions of his novels and short stories, so I was chuffed (as he would say) to come across a review by Isaac Chotiner of a new edition of his letters in the June Atlantic.
“An undoubtedly gentle soul ... his habit of inventing Edenic universes was not limited to the printed page. Evelyn Waugh once wrote of Bertie Wooster and his valet, Jeeves, that they inhabited 'a world as timeless as that of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Alice in Wonderland.' Wodehouse, too, was timeless, but distinctly so: he could appear untouched by his era, untouched by his times.”
In characterizing Wodehouse's prose, Chotiner aptly quotes the author's own introduction to his novel Summer Lightning:
A certain critic—for such men, I regret to say, do exist—made the nasty remark about my last novel that it contained “all the old Wodehouse characters under different names.” He has probably by now been eaten by bears, like the children who made mock of the prophet Elisha: but if he still survives he will not be able to make a similar charge against Summer Lightning. With my superior intelligence, I have outgeneralled the man this time by putting in all the old Wodehouse characters under the same names. Pretty silly it will make him feel, I rather fancy.
How interesting that this quintessential British author wrote lyrics for the seminal American musical Showboat. It's also apropos that he was called “Plum" (abbreviating “Pelham”) by most family and friends, for  sticking one's thumb in any one of his fictions (metaphorically speaking) will invariably produce a plethora of humorous plums. "You don't analyze such sunlit perfection” marvels Stephen Fry, “you just bask in its warmth and splendor.”
"If Jeeves sets out to shift a fellow from spot A to spot B, from a state-room on a yacht, for instance, to the shore in front of his cottage, he just does it." Illustration by Paul Cox from Thank You, Jeeves (London: The Folio Society, 1996).

7 comments:

  1. It's funny that this should be today's post, because I just started my first Wodehouse novel this morning! Only a couple chapters in, but I love it so far. And I love that Stephen Fry quote, very apt! (I also just love Stephen Fry in general. Anyone here seen Q.I.?)

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  2. This is all too strange! I had never read any Wodehouse until last month... Our Gleaner is perhaps entertaining AND clairvoyant???

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  3. “As we grow older and realize more clearly the limitations of human happiness, we come to see that the only real and abiding pleasure in life is to give pleasure to other people.”
    ― P.G. Wodehouse, Something Fresh

    P.G. Wodehouse was a clever and funny writer, and at the same time rather insightful, haven't read much of his stuff but I will definitely have to check it out sometime soon.

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  4. I didn't know about the songwriting, but it seems composers as wonderful as Jerome Kern and George Gershwin used his lyrics. The song "Bill" in Show Boat was his.
    I think I'll name my first-born Pelham, regardless of gender. He or she will have to grow up a great comedian or an unbeatable boxer.

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  5. I have never read any Wodehouse, but this post makes me tempted to do so. The people who like him...love him. So I have been meaning to give it a try.

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  6. "I would scarcely advocate it, sir."
    That was Sir Plum's rendition of Jeeves replying to an American who wanted Jeeves to star in a comic strip. "jeeves knows his place, and that is between the covers of a book."
    I wonder what he would say to the clock sold at Hammacher Sclemmer's (spell check?) purporting to wake you with Jeeves's voice and wit.
    Such a marvel would likely keep me in bed, pressing the snooze button for more Jeevesian sarcasm.

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