Yup, I Read Now

The Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse

130194Bertie Wooster, narrator and oddly loveable upper-class twit, is deliciously idle and pals around with other hoighty-toighty wealthy folk who privilege decorum to such an outrageous extent that they inevitably wind up in the goofiest, most trifling predicaments. It’s up to intuitive, imperturbable Jeeves, Bertie’s valet (or “manservant” if you want to be creepy about it) to sort them all out.

On the face of it, The Code of the Woosters is 286 pages of unbridled hullabaloo (the bulk of the conflict revolves around a cow-creamer that several of the older, haughtier players of this farce covet for indiscernible yet clearly trivial reasons). But dismissing the book as insignificant fluff is wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Oh, so dreadfully wrong. P.G. Wodehouse’s intentions may not have been as lofty as those of some of the writers that we so nerdily dub “literary,” but there is still something special about this book, something special about Wodehouse. I’ve always felt that it is far more difficult to tickle the funny bone than tug at the heartstrings (though I will waffle a bit here and say that it takes a considerable amount of talent to do either effectively). Page for page, I don’t believe that I’ve ever read a book quite as quippy as The Code of the Woosters; it’s just brimming with wit. And while every gag may not be a howler, there’s no denying Wodehouse’s comedic artistry.

The humor is thoroughly British—often very reserved and satirical but also very, very silly. The dialogue has this enjoyable rapid-fire quality, and even though I, of course, believe that literature has its own inherent worth and books are perfectly fine in their God-given form, The Code of the Woosters just lends itself to cinematic/theatrical adaptation (I’m currently watching the third season of Jeeves and Wooster on DVD).

And the language, ah, the language! There is a terrific rhythm to Bertie’s narration and the diction, well, I suppose it’s 1930s English slang, and I loved it. Some of the Bertie words and phrases that I marked include:

“Five hundred’s pretty good sugar, if you ask me.”

“But that’s just what I’m driving at. That’s just where you’re making your bloomer.”

“The gravity of the situash had at last impressed itself upon her. She uttered a squeak of dismay, and her eyes became a bit soup-platey.”

“He opened the small suitcase, and I lit a cigarette and proceeded to stress the moral lesson to be learned from all this rannygazoo.”

On the front cover of my edition, there is a quote that reads:

“Wodehouse is the funniest writer—that is, the most resourceful and unflagging deliverer of fun—that the human race a glum crowd, has yet produced.”

Another critic says:

“He who has not met Wodehouse has not lived a full life.”

There is a heap of praise that I would like to heave onto the pile—The Code of the Woosters is a fantastic bit of social commentary, the characters are exquisitely rendered, etc.—but I don’t think that I would be able to articulate it any better than this, so I’m going to stop right here. What I will say is that I’m glad to have finally read a little Wodehouse.

(for anyone who cares, here is a great interview Wodehouse did for the Paris Review, published in 1975)


Jeeves and Wooster

iread (red new)I’m taking longer with The Code of the Woosters than I probably should (it’s a little less than 300 pages and mostly dialogue). Usually I would finish a book like this in a day or two, but my mind has been otherwise engaged. The worse part is that it hasn’t been engaged by anything of consequence. I’m about half way through the book and determined to finish it by Tuesday.

Reading The Code of the Woosters has actually proven to be inspirational. Well, in a sense. It inspired me to rent a few DVDs and I’ve been watching episodes of Jeeves and Wooster before going to bed. After finishing the first two discs, I’ve realized two things.

(1) Hugh Laurie’s American accent on House is awesome.

(2) I’m sort of in love with P.G. Wodehouse (mainly because he has some v. favorable things to say on the subject of idleness).

As you might imagine, watching Jeeves and Wooster while reading Jeeves and Wooster has really enhanced my experience with the material. The show is faithful to Wodehouse’s work and Laurie and Stephen Fry are perfection (a small part of my pacing issue has to do with not wanting to leave Bertie and Jeeves).

For those unfamiliar with Jeeves and Wooster, as I was before last week, this is what the back cover blurb says:

Wodehouse’s most famous creations, likeable nitwit Bertie Wooster and his effortlessly superior valet and protector Jeeves reach a kind of apotheosis in The Code of the Woosters, in which Bertie is rescued from his bumbling escapades again and again by the ever-unflappable gentleman’s gentleman Jeeves.

How can you deny a book that has the word “apotheosis” on the back of it? The answer is, you can’t(!)

Full review coming soon…

(The new Lethem comes out on Tuesday so I’ll be wanting to purchase that. But I’m in no rush to read it.)

Working Class Hero Reporting From the Trenches (via iPhone)
October 9, 2009, 6:52 pm
Filed under: P.G. Wodehouse, Work | Tags: ,

iread (red new)Will this day ever end?

I fear I’ll have grown a long white beard and require hip replacement surgery by the time it’s finally over (though the huge zit on my cheek should have cleared up by then).

All right, so I’ve only been at work for an hour but the day is already dragging or lagging or whatever the appropriate word is. It’s a good thing I brought Wodehouse with me(!) For reasons unknown to this part-time video store clerk, it’s easier reading this book at work than at home.

You see, I’ve been having some concentration problems.

The book is funny, for sure, but the language is old timey, ‘rather’ British, and apparently no match for those zany Housewives of Atlanta. But here the only distractions are the work I’m supposed to be doing and all these (easily ignored) customers asking me questions.

Ah, here comes one right now.