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P. G. Wodehouse: Carry On, Jeeves

I needed to kill a couple days before the final volume of Mistborn showed up, so short stories seemed like just the thing. Plus of course Wodehouse is about the most readable author on the planet, so I ended up plowing through all of them quickly. Which is not really the best way to experience Wodehouse, but more about that in a minute.

I should mention at the outset for people not familiar with these books that they are about the funniest things ever. Bertie Wooster is a feckless aristocrat who keeps getting himself in fixes and Jeeves is the super-competent valet who always finds a way to rescue him. Wodehouse has a way with dialogue and with Bertie’s internal monologue that keeps me constantly cracking up. I was not surprised to learn that Jack Vance, another master of funny dialogue, was a big Wodehouse fan.

I had actually read these stories, or most of them, a few years ago when I first discovered Wodehouse and had already read a couple of Jeeves novels. After just reading some novels, getting concentrated Jeeves in short bursts for ten stories straight was sort of an overdose, and I haven’t returned until now.

And although they were once again really funny, I still think a book of short stories is not really the best way to experience Jeeves. The novels pile up hilarious crisis upon crisis for a couple of hundred pages, then finally resolve them all; the short stories only really have room for one or two apiece. (Typically, one of Bertie’s chums has a problem, Jeeves comes up with a plan for him, Bertie bungles the execution, and then Jeeves fixes that.) That’s okay – not all plots have to be super complicated – but going through that arc ten times in a short period of time is a little wearying and, unsurprisingly, gets a little samey over time.

Still, they were a lot of fun, and the good news is that most of the Jeeves books are novels. The Code of the Woosters is the one I recommend if you’re starting out.

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