Anyone who knows me would in no way be surprised that I had fun reading Right Ho, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse. After all, I love a good laugh. One thing that is certain is that you do get that with Wodehouse (though I was more snickering throughout as opposed to laughing out loud at any point, but still). Mind you, I didn’t know that for sure until this book as I’d never read any Wodehouse before, but I’m a big fan of Douglas Adams and Molière and such and had every reason to think I would go for Wodehouse.
(Note, for those following along in The Top Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorite Books, this one was 6th for Arthur Golden.)
So what do we have with Right Ho, Jeeves? Well, we start with Bertram Wooster (Bertie) and his man (butler) Jeeves in a bit of a standoff over a white mess jacket. Apparently, Bertie purchased this jacket (which he is quite fond of) while away at Cannes and Jeeves does not approve of. Bertie knew this was going to happen and is ready to spar with Jeeves on the matter. As a result of this jacket situation, when Jeeves is approached by a reclusive and newt-fond friend of Bertie’s for help landing a girl (apparently people are always seeking the help of Jeeves as opposed to Bertie) Bertie seizes control and tries to help on his own. Instead of fixing things, Bertie complicates the situation excessively. Hopefully, Jeeves will eventually manage to step in and straighten things out. After all, there is apparently a good reason why people don’t ask Bertie for help.
One particularly interesting thing to me, though, is that even though everyone knows that Bertie’s advice will go wrong and that they really want the help of Jeeves, they still listen to Bertie when he advises. He talks and it sounds like a good idea, though it ends up not being such, and people listen to him. For the life of me, I can’t see why they do this as opposed to insisting on Jeeves. Yet, they do. Hilarity, of course, results. I suppose things would be rather dull if people just ignored Bertie and insisted on Jeeves as there would be no catastrophes and thus no humor.
Really, the humor is the main feature of this book for me. There are a few love stories going on, and a few things other than that, but I never felt that they were particularly significant or important. I wanted the various situations to turn out well, but I didn’t worry about them too much. I figured Jeeves would be listened to eventually and things would all be good by the end. I suppose there could be come argument for a dissection of wealthy English society in here, but I personally don’t find that as interesting as a good laugh.
By way of example, take a look at this section where Bertie’s affectionate aunt addresses him regarding the current state of affairs after Bertie has screwed some things up:
‘Gone to bed, eh?’ I murmured musingly.
‘What did you want her for?’
‘I thought she might like a stroll and a chat.’
‘Are you going for a stroll?’ said Aunt Dahlia, with a sudden show of interest. ‘Where?’
‘Oh, hither and thither.’
‘Then I wonder if you would mind doing something for me.’
‘Give it a name.’
‘It won’t take you long. You know that path that runs past the greenhouses and into the kitchen garden. If you go along it you come to a pond.’
‘Well, will you get a good, stout piece of rope or cord and go down that path until you come to the pond–’
‘To the pond. Right.’
‘– and look about you till you find a nice, heavy stone. Or a fairly large brick would do.’
‘I see,’ I said, though I didn’t, being still fogged. ‘Stone or brick. Yes. And then?’
‘Then,’ said the relative, ‘I want you, like a good boy, to fasten the rope to the brick and tie it round your damned neck and jump into the pond and drown yourself. In a few days I will send to have you fished up and buried because I shall need to dance on your grave.’
Frankly, I think this passage conveys the entire point behind reading this book all in one little package. I wouldn’t want to quote any more than that because it would spoil the ability to read these lines fresh for oneself.
Now, I’m not sure that I think all that much of Right Ho, Jeeves beyond the humor value (and I still would put Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest higher), but does there really need to be anything more than that? I certainly don’t think so. Sometimes a good laugh is all that separates us on a daily basis from going completely insane (if we aren’t already) in the face of what life throws at us.
I had fun reading Right Ho, Jeeves. Really, I think that’s plenty. I might not rank this as one of the best books of all time, but I certainly want to read more Wodehouse. For me, that’s an important indication. I don’t tend to keep reading someone who didn’t impress me one way or another.