30 January 2012

The Code of the Woosters (P.G. Wodehouse)

Wodehouse at last! Now I compare writers to him like crazy.

I'd actually seen the events that take place in The Code of the Woosters in television form, as the first two episodes of season 2 of the beyond-brilliant BBC adaption starring Hugh Laurie as dissolute, ditzy aristocrat Bertie Wooster and comic partner Stephen Fry as his unflappable and erudite butler Jeeves. Here are some adjectives which describe Wodehouse's glorious plotting: madcap, absurdist, zany, convoluted, farcical. Also: LOL, ROFL, and LMFAO! This is giggling-uncontrollably-on-the-subway stuff.

And here is a partial summary of said plot: Bertie, with Jeeves in tow, is summoned to the country house of Totleigh Towers by a boyhood friend--timid newt-fancier Gussie Fink-Nottle--to rescue the latter's engagement with Madeline Basset. Conveniently, Bertie's formidable Aunt Dahlia also wants him there, for a more nefarious purpose: to steal a silver cow-creamer that Madeline's father, Sir Watkyn Basset--a former magistrate who once fined Bertie five pounds for stealing a policeman's helmet--bought out from under Dahlia's collector husband. But Sir Watkyn being suspicious from the first, how is Bertie to carry out his aged relative's request? And how to keep himself from being once again accidentally engaged to Madeline herself?

More than the plot, though, the joy of Wodehouse is his breezy, idiosyncratic prose. I was struck by the modernity, the Internetiness of it: the needless abbreviation ("I mopped the b.," "That's the situash") and, conversely, using far too many words to say something simple ("I had seen this man before only in the decent habiliments suitable to the metropolis, and I confess that even in the predicament in which I found myself I was able to shudder at the spectacle he presented in the country"). It's delicious to read. And the best part? Since Wodehouse wrote 90+ books, I shall never run out!

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