Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Right Ho, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse

Source: Librivox (direct link)
Reader: Mark Nelson
Length: 5hr, 12 min

The book: Although P.G. Wodehouse’s most famous character, Jeeves, is still a household name in the U.S, I doubt most Americans have read or seen any adaptations of the Wodehouse books. If I’m right, they’re missing out on some very funny tales. Right Ho, Jeeves is not the first Jeeves story, but if you're a stickler about reading the series in order, don't worry. The Jeeves stories are like syndicated sitcoms: a number of things happen, but at the end, not much has changed.

The set-ups for the humor (or should I say humour?) will also be familiar to sitcom fans. Wodehouse provides all the standard family-hour TV machinations: a “sure-fire plan” with obvious flaws goes horribly wrong, a vague conversation leads to mistaken understandings, a man sticks his foot in his mouth and his love becomes overly offended by it. Perhaps these tropes weren’t so played-out when Wodehouse wrote them, but Wodehouse’s ability to make them seem fresh and funny to modern jaded eyes (or ears) is a testament to his talent.

Much of the humor is derived from the protagonist Bertie Wooster’s use of what I assume is 1930’s slang. Other than Cole Porter lyrics, I’m not deeply familiar with the culture of the time, so I can’t say whether his use of this slang was intended to be funny because his lingo was slightly behind the times (current equivalent: “I am so jiggy with it”) or because Bertie was an upper-crust aristocrat using terms reserved for the more avant-garde members of society (“This gala is totally crunk”). Either way, his mode of speech is infectious, so I have to proclaim this book "delish."

Rating: 8/10

The reader:Anglophiles may argue that Wodehouse should never be read by someone with an American accent, but listening to Mark Nelson's performance, I have to disagree. Nelson's voice captures Berty's aristocratic aloofness perfectly. I'd rather listen to someone portray the essence of a character in his tone rather than going outside his abilities to try an English accent. The voices of the other characters are equally good, with Gussie's nasal whine being a particular favorite. Funny books pose a particularly difficult challenge to readers, but Nelson displays excellent comic timing. The clarity of this recording ranks among the best at Librivox.

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