Friday, April 20, 2012

How Right You Are, Jeeves

by P.G. Wodehouse
a.k.a. Jeeves In the Offing

With Jeeves on vacation, Bertie finds himself at his Aunt Dahlia’s place in Brinkley Court, along with an American family, the Creams, who must be handled with kid gloves to prevent their canceling a big business deal with Bertie’s uncle; Audrey Upjohn, Bertie’s former headmaster, who still chills Bertie’s soul; Upjohn’s insipid daughter, Phyllis, who is infatuated with the playboy kleptomaniac wastrel American, Willie Cream, and must be put off; and old pal Roberta Wickham, engaged to be married to Bertie’s old pal Reginald Herring, who has written a caustic, libelous review of Upjohn’s memoirs and thus whose future depends on assuaging Upjohn’s wrathful soul.  Oh, and familiar face Roderick Glossop, eminent psychologist to the wealthy, is there in the disguise of a butler to surreptitiously assess Willie Cream’s psyche.

In short, the usual cast of doomed lovers, imperious guardians, and secret schemes abound, and Jeeves must be sent for.  Though there is little in this book of the sublime Bertie-Jeeves dialogue that defines their perfect relationship (Jeeves being mostly absent and even after he arrives doing his magic more or less off-camera), there is more than enough of the brilliant Wooster narration (“one got the distinct illusion he was swelling like one of those rubber ducks which you fill with air before inserting them in the bathtub”; “in his opinion three was a crowd and that what the leafy glade needed to make it all a leafy glade should be was a complete absence of Woosters”).  One may roll one’s eyes at the recurring tropes (the fretful porpentine quote, the young lovers who cannot marry unless the young man’s future is assured), but frankly you have to be a bit of an Upjohn not to delight in this world of wit, erudition, manners, and happy endings.

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