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My Man Jeeves - P.G. Wodehouse 'Sir?' said Jeeves, kind of manifesting himself. One of the rummy things about Jeeves is that, unless you watch like a hawk, you very seldom see him come into a room. He's like one of those weird chappies in India who dissolve themselves into thin air and nip through space in a sort of disembodied way and assemble the parts again just where they want them.

Most people today probable associate Jeeves with the man that has all the answers not because they have read P.G. Wodehouse, but because they have accessed Ask Jeeves on the web.

Not the Jeeves I know

Over the years I've read Wodehouse here and there, but it has been so long since I've read most of them that I have decided to go back through the entire works of Wodehouse. Overlook Press has reissued Wodehouse in affordable hardback editions that are actually kind of fun to collect. http://www.overlookpress.com/p-g-wodehouse.html

This collection of stories is equally split between four Jeeves and Wooster stories, and four stories with an early version of Bertie Wooster under the name Reggie Peppers. There was such a shift in style between the Jeeves stories and moving into the Peppers stories that I actually looked at the book to see if I had grabbed the right one. There is humor in the Peppers stories, but nothing like the graceful, yet ribald wit of the Jeeves and Wooster stories. I had no clue that Reggie Peppers existed in the Wodehouse world so I'm a bit gleeful to make his acquaintance.

I was popping off answers to emails at work yesterday and after reading back through one such message I discovered bits of Wodehouse lilt to my language. I had to go back through and tone my word choices down. I've found living in the Midwest it is best to take any elevated language or tone out of my writing because people here assume that I am showing off. Also don't sound too happy about anything or they will think you are going crazy. My point being though is that Wodehouse's writing style is so engaging and contagious. He is also laugh out loud funny and here is one example out of many that had me chortling.

Lady Malvern was a hearty, happy, healthy, overpowering sort of dashing female, not so very tall but making up for it by measuring about six feet from the O.P. to the Prompt Side. She fitted into my biggest arm-chair as if it had been built round her by some one who knew they were wearing arm-chairs tight around the hips that season.

Okay so part of the reason this was so funny to me was I had one of the people that work for me in my office for a yearly evaluation. She was sitting in one of my office chairs.


Everything went swimmingly until we finished and she got up to leave. She is one of those women that are pear shaped. She took two steps with the chair still attached to her hips and then the chair just popped off.

I have to give myself credit I held it together.

My brain was scrambling for something to say that A)wouldn't make me laugh and B)wouldn't come across in any way shape or form as insulting. I came up with are you alright?. She laughed and said that she might need to lose some weight or I might need to get some bigger chairs. I notice now when she comes in to talk to me that she lists to one side to keep one hip from hooking under the arm of the chair. So I laughed at Bertie's assessment of Lady Malvern's tight fit in his arm-chair and the memory it inspired of the chair incident in my office.

Now of course I couldn't read the books without seeing Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie as Jeeves and Wooster. I have watched the series twice and if you haven't seen it you are really in for a treat. Several stories from this book were lifted for episodes. Much of the dialogue is exactly the same because how could you improve on the wit and repartee of Wodehouse?

I endeavor to give satisfaction, sir.

Now part of the charm of Hugh Laurie playing Wooster is that his facial expressions are just priceless. He does gobsmacked about as well as anyone in the film industry. I find myself laughing out loud at his expression without him having to say a word. For me, Tim Conway is the funniest man ever, but Hugh Laurie as Wooster is on the short list.

I tried to think of something to say, but nothing came. A chappie has to be a lot broader about the forehead than I am to handle a jolt like this. I strained the old bean till it creaked, but between the collar and the hair parting nothing stirred.

Most disturbing, sir.

Sir Pelham Grenville Wodehouse in 1955 was naturalized as an American citizen. We do our best to steal the most talented from around the world. He wrote 96 books, so I will have my work cut out for me to read them all, but it is also such a relief to know that there are so many of them and each one I'm sure will elicit a heady combination of snorts, snickers, and chuckles. Wodehouse lived to be 93 serving notice to the rest of us that comedians who avoid early deaths from drug abuse tend to live to a ripe old age. I suggest to all that you read Wodehouse, laugh out loud don't smother your glee, let it out, and in the process you will be healthier, and will, according to studies, live longer. Keep a Wodehouse handy for a day when you are feeling glum.

P. G. Wodehouse

Precisely sir.