Lynn Gardner: Very Good, Jeeves!


1.03.2014

Very Good, Jeeves!


The Husband gave me the complete Jeeves and Wooster with Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry for my birthday, because he knows how strongly I Fry and Laurie. I've been trying very hard not to just sit down and watch every episode in one utterly debauched go, but it's hard. Jeeves and Wooster is the best kind of television -- fun, yes, but also quite clever and wickedly sharp.

And I'm pleased to say the actual short stories are equally fine. I meant to start at the very beginning with The Man with Two Left Feet, but Wikipedia told me "Bertram did not have a surname, and it remains a matter of considerable debate amongst Wodehouse scholars as to whether he was indeed Bertie Wooster, or merely Bertie Mannering-Phipps" so I just decided to just go ahead and grab whatever looked most interesting on the library shelf.

Which was Very Good, Jeeves!, because it included "Jeeves and the Yule-Tide Spirit," making it all seasonal and shizzle. While it may not be the first Jeeves story collection, Very Good, Jeeves! served as a fine introduction to Bertie Wooster and his "personal gentleman's gentleman," Jeeves. As with the television series, it's clear Jeeves is the subtle brains operating behind the scenes while Bertie, with a seemingly inhuman tolerance for drink and cigs, is a well-meaning and utterly lovable idiot. Bertie gets into scrapes, Jeeves gets him out, and Bertie seldom realizes quite what's happened. Occasionally, Bertie attempts to exert his authority over Jeeves by behaving as if he were the brains, and Jeeves lets him dangle for a bit, but everything always ends well ... and, again, Bertie is usually unaware of half the things that happened around him. (I fear I make Bertie sound dreadful, but he's actually impossible to dislike).

Some of the stories in Very Good, Jeeves! have also been featured in the television series and I was really chuffed to see that the narration and dialogue in the television series comes so close to the stories. It was very easy, as I read along, to hear Fry and Laurie's voices in my head.

If you enjoy quiet little stories where not much happens, but there's scads of clever dialogue and literary allusions, Very Good, Jeeves! might be just the thing.
It was the morning of the day on which I was slated to pop down to my Aunt Agatha’s place at Woollam Chersey in the county of Herts for a visit of three solid weeks; and, as I seated myself at the breakfast table, I don’t mind confessing that the heart was singularly heavy. We Woosters are men of iron, but beneath my intrepid exterior at that moment there lurked a nameless dread.
'Jeeves,' I said, 'I am not the merry old self this morning.'
'Indeed, sir?'
'No, Jeeves. Far from it. Far from the merry old self.'
'I am sorry to hear that sir.'
He uncovered the fragrant eggs and b., and I pronged a moody forkful.
'Why - this is what I keep asking myself, Jeeves, — why has my Aunt Agatha invited me to her country seat?'
'I could not say, sir.'
'Not because she is fond of me.'
'No, sir.'
'It is a well-established fact that I give her a pain in the neck. How it happens I cannot say, but every time our paths cross, so to speak, it seems to be a mere matter of time before I perpetrate some ghastly floater and have her hopping after me with her hatchet.'
Very Good, Jeeves! by P.G. Wodehouse (Overlook Press, 2006)

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