Monday, 4 May 2009

PG Wodehouse: The Inimitable Jeeves

There are, it seems, few things funnier than an idiotic English gentleman being hauled out of trouble by his far cleverer manservant. At least, there are few things funnier the way Wodehouse writes it. This book, one of the reasonably recent Arrow Books editions, fits into a collection of works that usually come up somewhere in almost any discussion of the funniest writing in the language.

Here, it's in the context of a series of linked short stories, all featuring Jeeves and Wooster. Most of them share common themes too. There's Bertie's friend Bingo, with his unfortunate habit of continually falling in love. There are strange bets, fixed bets and lost bets. There is a recurring tendency for Bertie to be in the position of problem solver here too, or at least to attempt it, which is a nice play on his relationship with Jeeves.

Some aspects of this collection perhaps suffer from the nature of the whole. Small themes, such as Jeeve's hatred of Wooster's occasional forays into garish clothing, end up over repeated due to their presence in several stories. Bingo's random forays into love become a little predictable too, while, as a collection of separate stories, there isn't quite the expert pacing over the whole collection that might normally be found in one of Wodehouse's novels.

That said, it's still very funny, and there are moments of brilliance. 'The Great Sermon Handicap' is a ludicrous idea perfectly executed, for example, and absolutely essential reading. The rest of it is possibly less so, compared with the novels, but that still puts it streets ahead of most of the alternatives.


Heather said...

more to do with the comment you left me: :)

totally hilarious

stu said...

An old joke, but a vastly repeated one.

Estella said...

I loved the two Wodehouses I've read (not this one). You're right, though: there's nothing funnier than an English gent being hauled out of trouble by his far cleverer manservant as written by Wodehouse. :)

Lauren said...

Sounds interesting. I shall have to look into it. And it is very funny when the manservant has to end up basically babysitting the gentleman :)

Highton-Ridley said...

...and as played by Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie in the tv progs, a masterful combination of wit. Although I read my first Jeeves and Wooster novel way before the tv progs, I swear my mental image was of Fry and Laurie!