June 02, 2004

Quick Service, by P.G. Wodehouse

This little number is the second Wodehouse novel I ever read. The first was The Code of the Woosters, which I fear I did not appreciate as I should have. I kept asking inconvenient questions of myself, like "Why is Bertie willing to risk being arrested just so that he can keep eating the food prepared by his Aunt Dahlia's cook Anatole? He must be an idiot!" The unwritten rules that govern Bertie and his fellow Drones weren't yet clear to me, and it was some years before I attempted Wodehouse again.

When I did, it was in the guise of that admirable collection, The Most of P.G. Wodehouse, which is still in print, and which I highly recommend as an introduction to Plum and his creations. It consists mostly of short stories, including the inestimable "Uncle Fred Flits By", and one novel, to wit, Quick Service. I read the novel, and then I almost immediately read it aloud to Jane, the first of many Wodehouse novels so read. And then I didn't read it again until just now, in the new "Collector's Wodehouse" edition, when I enjoyed it just as much as before.

It's all familiar territory by now, of course. There's the aspiring socialite who controls the purse strings, and her henpecked husband. There's the pretty young girl. There's the young upper-class twit she thinks she wants to marry. There's the curmudgeonly, misanthropic, dyspeptic, fat, middle-aged businessman who controls the upper-class twit's inheritance.

And then there's Joss Weatherby. Among all of Wodehouse's leading men, Joss Weatherby stands alone. He is creative, resourceful, capable, courageous, forthright, eccentric in speech and manner, ardent in love, and above all, determined, and very, very, funny. The only character I can compare him to is Psmith, except that he's like Psmith with the volume turned up three or for notches--if such a thing is possible. Watching Joss work--well, it's a treat.

You should try it some time.

Posted by Will Duquette at June 2, 2004 08:58 PM