Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Inimitable Jeeves

The Inimitable Jeeves
© 1923 P.G. Wodehouse
225 pages

Bertie Wooster is something of an imbecile, but his preference for the quiet life would keep him out of trouble were it not for the fact that his relations and idiot friends are constantly getting him into scraps. If his domineering Aunt Agatha isn’t constantly trying to get him married, or worse, employed, his friend Bingo Little is plotting some elaborate scheme to win the heart of the girl-of-the-week. (Even if she is a socialist revolutionary, and Bingo a contented member of the Idle Rich.) Fortunately for Bertie, he has Jeeves, the epitome of an efficient and clever valet. Jeeves hasn’t yet encountered a predicament too difficult, no Gordian knot too tangled, to  finesse.  The Inimitable Jeeves  collects a series of escapades, colorfully and hilarious rendered, in which Jeeves pulls Bertie’s chestnuts out of the fire. This particular set of stories is more or less pulled together by the many love affairs of Bingo, who doesn’t think twice about introducing  Bertie to his uncle as an acclaimed author, so that Bertie might better influence the uncle into giving Bingo more of an allowance. The scenarios are  absurd in themselves, but what truly sells  Wodehouse’s storytelling is the narrative voice.  Bertie tells these stories personally, and his delivery is a riot -- so earnest, so energetic, so full of quaintly charming slang. Bertie never walks anywhere, no, -- he legs it.  And while Bertie is catastrophically throwing himself into whatever obstacles come his away, Jeeves is hovering in the background and working his magic. He is unflappable, and I have rarely been so delighted by any set of stories.

At any rate, now I know why Isaac Asimov constantly referred to Wodehouse writing his Black Widower series!

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