Friday, May 13, 2011

Things I've noticed: The Sheer Genius of Jeeves and Wooster

*sorry I didn't get this out earlier, apparently Blogger was down all day.

Last year at one of my two book clubs we were given the book Life with Jeeves, a collection of the majority of the early short stories of the Jeeves and Wooster cannon. Until this point I had never heard of either character, except perhaps Jeeves in terms of the search engine. From the first story forward I could not stop smiling, chuckling, and guffawing (and I am not the sort to use the “G” word loosely) as I moved through the 30 short stories and eleven novels that make up the series.

Written by English author P.G. Wodehouse between 1914 and 1974, the series chronicles the adventures of Betram (Bertie) Wilberforce Wooster, professional bachelor and his personal valet, Jeeves. What amazes me about these six decades worth of stories is their simplicity. Every story basically works as follows:

1) Bertie has recently acquired some sort of horrible fashion accessory (hat, boots, disturbing moustache, etc.), Jeeves does not approve
2) An acquaintance of Bertie (aunt, friend, random person off the street) shows up, assumes Bertie will help with some sort of plan to help them in their personal, financial, or romantic lives
3) Bertie attempts to help and makes everything worse

4) Things get even worse than previously described, often with Bertie becoming engaged to some sort of horrible woman who wants to “make something” of Bertie

5) Seeing how terrible Bertie has made things, Jeeves solves every problem, from the romantic to the political, often in a simple word given to the right person.
6) Completely grateful for Jeeves’ help, Bertie promises to remove/destroy the offending accessory he acquired in step one.

It is incredibly important to mention here that although the structure of each of these stories is almost identical, each one quickly moved up my personal list of funniest stuff I’ve ever read. These books had me laughing at dinner, work, and bus stops and in all honesty, also have me laughing right now while I’m blogging about them.

In addition to a great collection of short stories and novels, there was a television series that ran for four seasons in the ‘90s starring Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry (pictured right), that quite perfectly capture the spirit and wit of the original work.

This series is quite simply, some of the funniest stuff I have ever read, and although I can’t consider it Horror, SF, or Fantasy, I still recommend it with the highest recommendation I have – the newly invented Bookmonkey Stamp of Approval (image forthcoming).

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