Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Jeeves in the Offing by P.G. Wodehouse

I've written here, a number of times, that I turn to P.G. Wodehouse when I'm in a reading slump. I hope every reader has a writer like that: someone who consistently sparks joy and can be guaranteed to make you happier in the reading.

More than that, Wodehouse for me is one of those writers who it's far easier to just keep reading than to stop. And that's just what you need in a reading slump: someone who reminds you why you like reading and want to do more of it.

I'm in a pretty big reading slump this year, as I expected. Coming off my biggest Book-A-Day extravaganza ever, it was inevitable. But it hit harder even than I expected: I read three books in January, two in February, and none at all in March. As of the moment I'm writing this -- much later than I'd prefer, which is its own issue -- I've only read eleven books. Last year, I hit that total on January 11.

So, around the beginning of May, I turned to Wodehouse. Jeeves in the Offing is a late book, published in 1960 when Wodehouse was 79 -- though he kept living, and writing, for another fifteen years. This is from the era when US and UK titles diverged for no obvious reason; it was originally known as How Right You Are, Jeeves on my shores. (My assumption, as usual, is that someone expected that Americans would be too dumb to know what an "offing" was, and that someone was probably right.)

Like the other late Jeeves books, Offing has a bit of the remix collection about it: our narrator and central character Bertie Wooster travels back to Brinkley Court, where a famous cow-creamer is inevitably found to be missing. There are people who may be loony, and Sir Roderick Glossop the famous loony-doctor to secretly examine them, and someone (Glossop himself, as it happens) impersonating a butler. There is Bobbie Wickham, engaged to an old friend of Bertie's, though not above breaking that engagement and declaring Bertie will be her husband when situations warrant. There is a writer, in this case the grumpy mystery novelist Mrs. Homer Cream, and a Jeeves momentarily unavailable due to his annual holidays. There are complications, as there must be, mostly arising from threatened legal actions and the attempted sale of various things and engagements that need just a bit more money to come to the fruition of marriage. (Perhaps surprisingly for a light writer, Wodehouse's plots are about money most of the time.)

But we don't read Wodehouse for novelty. We read Wodehouse because we know the ingredients, and we want to see what kind of souffle he made from them this time. Offing is a frothy, savory, delicious souffle, buoyed by Bertie's uniquely confident and uniquely deluded voice. I don't know if I'm reading more quickly since I read it, but it made me happy and made me want to read more books, and that's a wonderful thing.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

The last paragraph says it all..

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