I read “Jeeves Takes Charge,” the short story in which Bertie Wooster hires Jeeves to be his valet, last week while walking on a treadmill in a hotel south of Montgomery, Alabama. (You can read more about my very first encounter with Wodehouse here.) It’s a good thing the exercise room was empty, too–I’m sure I would’ve been unable to contain my glee and would’ve laughed aloud despite the presence of an audience. However, anyone familiar with Wodehouse would’ve understood completely my unabashed exuberance. What I want to do here is simply make note of a few excerpts from the story that capture the flavor of Wodehouse and what makes his writing so enjoyable.
Bertie hires Jeeves after Jeeves gives him his own special remedy for “a morning head”:
I would have clutched at anything that looked like a life line that morning. I swallowed the stuff. For a moment I felt as if somebody had touched off a bomb inside the old bean and was strolling down my throat with a lighted torch, and then everything seemed suddenly to get all right. The sun shone in through the window; birds twittered in the treetops; and, generally speaking, hope dawned once more.
I might be a chump, but, dash it, I could out-general a mere kid with a face like a ferret.
I don’t know whether you have ever experienced it, but it’s a dashed unpleasant thing having a crime on one’s conscience [. . .] I found myself getting all on edge; and once when Uncle Willoughby trickled silently into the smoking room when I was alone there and spoke to me before I knew he was there, I broke the record for the sitting high jump.
Wodehouse is just plain funny, and I can definitely use more funny in my life. I finally got my hands on a stand-alone novel, Jeeves and the Tie That Binds, which I hope to have finished for this month’s Reading to Know Bookclub.