Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves

1963, 1990 Harper & Row edition
P. G. Wodehouse
Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves
Bought newish for $9.00
Slightly worn paperback

In the real world, it's been 25 years since The Code of the Woosters, but it's only a month or two since that ill-fated visit to Totleigh Towers.  There's a reference to "reefers," but it could still be the 1930s, and a movie Bertie mentions, The Lady Vanishes, did come out in 1938.  But there's no question that the staleness of Wodehouse's 1950s writing continues.  There are some nice turns of phrase here and there, but nothing particularly memorable.  There's a heavy sense of de ja vu, relieved only when Gussie elopes with Pauline Stoker's previously unmentioned sister, causing Roderick Spode to propose to Madeline Bassett, to everyone's joy, Bertie's especially.  Wodehouse has two particularly clumsy passages in the second half of the book, a phone conversation with Aunt Dahlia that's unnecessary, and a "now let me get this straight" recap with Major Plank.

Still, it's Jeeves & Wooster, and that's almost always a pleasant time-passer.  Also, this has my favorite Wodehouse cover, featuring Bertie in his Alpine hat, as Bartholomew the Scottie and Sir Watkyn Bassett glare at him.  (A nice touch is that the statuette Bertie is trying to steal looks like a chocolate version of Sir Watkyn, monocle and all.)

Wodehouse published two more of these novels (plus "Jeeves and the Greasy Bird," which I discussed under The World of Jeeves), so he wasn't quite through with these characters.  In Much Obliged, Jeeves (1971), Madeline's engagement is temporarily broken, so she tries to hitch up with Bertie, who also risks re-engagement to Florence Craye.  Plank returns in Aunts Aren't Gentlemen (1974).  Wodehouse died the following February, at age 93.

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