Posted by Jen Moore
Day 15 – Your “comfort” book
The Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse. There is nothing, nothing in the world happier than Bertie Wooster and his valet Jeeves, and when I’m feeling at my absolute worst, I turn to Wodehouse. (Most often it’s Code of the Woosters, but I’m also fond of the collection Carry On Jeeves.)
I read an article once where the author said that he did not think he could remain friends with someone who didn’t like Wodehouse. He could forgive not having read Wodehouse yet, but if you’d read him and disliked him, well, that was it. I read another article once where someone mentioned that if Oscar Wilde put all his genius into his life and only his talent into his art, P.G. Wodehouse put both his talent and his genius into his art, and we are all very grateful for it.
Wodehouse stories are wonderful, charming, entirely inconsequential tales of the lives of wealthy young people in a mythical England sometime in the early part of the twentieth century. Their lives are never interrupted by the War, and they are almost universally either silly, foolish, or downright idiotic. The genius is in the plotting: each story starts out with one small disaster (a romantic crush, or an unwanted engagement, usually) and snowballs from there until it seems impossible that anyone should survive (without being thrown in jail overnight, forced to marry someone who wishes for them to read improving books, or being fined five pounds for the theft of a policeman’s helmet). And yet, somehow, they always do, usually through the offices of the inimitable Jeeves.
The other genius is in the dialogue; Wodehouse has a firm grip on the slang of the nineteen-teens, and he never lets go of it. Bertie Wooster in particular shows all the signs of having had a classical education without it ever having really sunk in properly. (My absolute favorite of his is an abbreviation of Kipling — “The F of the S is more D than the M, wot?”) As a result, he comes off as some combination of well-read and a bit dim, and absolutely charming. Bertie’s greatest enemies are aunts, and his worst fear is their collaboration, “aunt bellowing to aunt like mastadons across a primeval plain.”
I must also recommend the Granada TV series (like Nero Wolfe, I discovered these books through the adaptations first), with Hugh Laurie playing Bertie and Stephen Fry as Jeeves, but only the first three seasons of such. The fourth season does not exist.