THANK YOU, JEEVES!
By P.G. Wodehouse
Where have I been my whole life? Do I live under a rock? I decided to purchase this audio book because it was on sale and also because the author’s name rang a bell, though I’d be at a loss to describe what kind of bell. Just a page into the first chapter and I was astonished by the style: perfect classical British humor in the style of Jerome K. Jerome, or, if you are the movie-watcher type, in the Monty Python style.
Unlike Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat, however, the plot is quite interesting as well. Since this was an audio book on Chirp, I had to resolve to turn to my computer to find quotes to place here so you can delight in the pleasure of Wodehouse’s sentence structure, vocabulary, and understated hilarity. Here’s the first. Let me give you the background. Jeeves, the narrator’s faithful butler, having quit because of his master’s insistence not only on learning to play a very annoying instrument but even planning to rent a lonely cottage to pursue this hobby, Wooster hires a new butler. At this point in the story, this new butler is drunk, but mistakes him for a burglar since he smeared black shoe polish all over his face, and attempts to coax him out of a room he locked himself in. So here we go:
“I mean, if you’re asking a fellow to come out of a room so that you can dismember him with a carving knife, it’s absurd to tack a ‘sir’ on to every sentence. The two things don’t go together.“
At another point, Wooster wonders to a young lady that Jeeves might have a poor opinion of himself. She replies,
“Oh, yes, he thinks a lot of you. I remember his very words. ‘Mr Wooster, miss’ he said ‘is, perhaps, mentally somewhat negligible but he has a heart of gold.”
Don’t you just love it? “Mentally somewhat negligible…”! I need to memorize this and use it in class… And then, in the middle of a quarrel:
“You have a perfect right to love who you like…”
“Whom, old man,” I couldn’t help saying. Jeeves has made me rather a purist in these matters.
That sounds just like me correcting my student’s grammar, but so far I’ve never do so in the middle of a heated argument!
So, who will blame me for immediately turning to Amazon to purchase the paper copy of the audio book I just finished? I want to savor at will those delectable titbits whenever I’m disgusted by the prose of today’s bestsellers. I mean, just look at those gems of similes:
“We are the parfait gentle knights, and we feel that it ill beseems us to make a beeline for a girl like a man charging into a railway restaurant for a bowl of soup” (chapter 4)
and “The light faded from her face, and in its stead there appeared the hurt, bewildered look of a barefoot dancer who, while halfway through the Vision of Salome, steps on a tin tack” (chapter 9).
Oh, that last one, my goodness… I’m still reeling from laughter at the imagery of it! So, I now plead guilty to the charge of having immediately purchased two volumes of compiled P.G. Wodehouse (pronounced Woodhouse) works and a few more single novels.
By the way, he also turns out to be a major milestone in the development of the American musical. I say!