Treading on Life’s Banana Skins {Book Club}

Today we are discussing the first half (up through chapter 13) of Right Ho, Jeeves by PG Wodehouse. What an interesting character Mr. PD Wodehouse was! He lived 93 years and for the life of me, I cannot figure out how many books he wrote (this should be an objective fact, right?!), but it was a lot!

I had never heard of him before I asked on Facebook for book suggestions for us. Kay Bruner said, “Anything by PD Wodehouse, because he makes me laugh.” I find that when the back of a book says, “Laugh out loud” I rarely . . . laugh out loud. Instead I feel marketed to and cranky. But when someone I know says, “Hey, I laughed out loud.” I pay attention.

I am so thankful I read this book! If you have not read it and think you are too busy, I would like to invite you to one of the best decisions you’ll make this summer.

When I read this on Wikipedia, I thought, “That’s it! That is why I am enjoying this book.”

“Wordplay is a key element in Wodehouse’s writing. This can take the form of puns, such as [example given]. Linguistic confusion is another humorous mechanism, such as in Uncle Dynamite when Constable Potter says he has been ‘assaulted by the duck pond.’ In reply, Sir Aylmer, confusing the two meanings of the word ‘by’, asks: ‘How the devil can you be assaulted by a duck pond?’ Wodehouse also uses metaphor and mixed metaphor to add humour. Some come through exaggeration, such as Bingo Little’s infant child who ‘not only has the aspect of a mass murderer, but that of a mass murderer suffering from an ingrown toenail’. Bertie Wooster’s half-forgotten vocabulary also provides a further humorous device. In Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit Bertie asks Jeeves “Let a plugugly like young Thos loose in the community with a cosh, and you are inviting disaster and … what’s the word? Something about cats.” Jeeves replies, “Cataclysms, sir?”

I found the writing style to be so conversational I felt like I was hearing the book in my head more than other books I’ve read recently. In fact, it reads more like a sitcom—a fun, light read in a busy season, eh?

I highlighted an absurd amount and can’t share them all (or this might move from a comedy to a murder mystery with the thoughts you’d have towards me), but here are a few:

1. But the snag I always come up against when I’m telling a story is this dashed difficult problem of where to begin it.

So true, especially when it comes to presentations to supporters. How do you summarize a year, two years, or four?! Where to begin?

2. Aunt Dahlia would have played baccarat

Another game I’ve never heard of! Whist in 80 Days, and now baccarat.

3. I [Bertie] was exercised about the poor fish [Gussie], as I am about all my pals, close or distant, who find themselves treading upon Life’s banana skins. It seemed to me that he was up against it.

“Treading on Life’s banana skins!” It perfectly sums up certain seasons, doesn’t it?!

4. I don’t want to wrong anybody, so I won’t go so far as to say that she actually wrote poetry . . .

Hahah! I howled. I’m in a family of people who process their feelings through poetry. What is one way it has never occurred to me to process my feelings? Until I saw others doing it and I wondered if it would work for me. Um, . . . I won’t go so far as to say that I actually won’t write poetry :).

(I just noticed these all came from Chapter one! If I don’t move it along, we’ll be here all day.)

5. He meant no harm, I suppose, but I’m bound to say that this tactless speech nettled me not a little. People are always nettling me like that.

More often than I’d like, me too!

The telegram interaction between Bertie and his aunt:

Perplexed. Explain. Bertie.

What on earth is there to be perplexed about, ass? Come at once. Travers.

Three cigarettes and a couple of turns about the room, and I had my response ready:

How do you mean come at once? Regards. Bertie.

I append the comeback:

I mean come at once, you maddening half-wit. What did you think I meant? come at once or expect an aunt’s curse first post tomorrow. Love. Travers.

///

6. I decided to check out all this rot at the outset. Nobody is more eager to oblige deserving aunts than Bertram Wooster, but here are limits and sharply defined limits, at that.

Oh are we all hypocritical gooses? Eager to oblige, yet having sharply defined limits.

///

I’m pretty sure I can guess how this is going to end, but I truly made myself stop at the end of Chapter 13 and can’t read on until I finish this post. What I’m not sure, is what other ill-advised support Bertie is going to offer and how Jeeves will help.

Right ho, Jeeves!

This seems such an appropriate summer read, to me. What do you think? It’s okay to not really like it :).

See you in the comments,

Amy

P.S. Next week we’ll finish Right Ho, Jeeves by PG Wodehouse.

Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post. If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site. 

22 Comments

  1. Michele Womble June 20, 2016

    I’ve been laughing and laughing my way through this and then trying to explain to my bemused family members what’s so funny….and of course it gets lost in the translation…so I’m sending them all the book on kindle.  I didn’t read about him on Wikipedia like you did (now I have, after seeing your link)  – interesting that he is a Third Culture Person of sorts.

    Where to begin a story – so true!  And I love how he begins it….with hints and allusions to things that only become clear later…

    1. Amy Young June 21, 2016

      I’m having the same problem! I’ll be reading in the same room as my mom. The other day she said, “Are you laughing or crying?” because I was trying to not disturb her with my laughter!!

  2. Michele Womble June 20, 2016

    I highlighted a lot, too, including the phrase about “I won’t go so far as to say that she actually wrote poetry…”

    also

    “But we Woosters are men of tact and have a nice sense of the obligations of a host.  We do not tell old friends beneath our roof-tree that they are an offense to the eyesight.”

    Yeah. in Russia the “obligations” of a friend – most friends would tell him: you look horrible.  Don’t go out like that.  Very directly and without hesitation.  There are perks to having friends who will be direct and honest with you – it can be painful sometimes, but may save you from looking ridiculous.

    “There is enough sadness in life without having fellows like Gussie Fink-Nottle going about in sea boots. “  That was just funny.

    “And giving me the sort of weak smile Roman gladiators used to give the Emporer before entering the arena….” 

    I highlighted the obliging vs. limits line, too.

    Ok, was this not hilarious (or did it just strike me that way?)  “When we Woosters put our hands to the plough, we do not readily sheathe the sword.” 

    “the whole aspect that of a man who has passed through the furnace and been caught in the machinery..”

    I’ll stop now, before I type out the whole book.  🙂

     

     

  3. Spring June 20, 2016

    I am probably missing the puns as I’ve been reading while doing re-entry.  I will try harder next week to “get” the humor in the book.  I have to say this is the first book that so far I don’t like the main character.. he seems to spend his life sitting around yet thinks he knows everything.  (especially when it comes to romance!)

    I do enjoy Jeeves.  I happened to hit the “x-ray” link on my kindle while reading this and it talked about how Jeeves is actually in a lot of PG’s books and was the basis for “Ask Jeeves” the website that came before google.  His name is also a name for fictional butlers because of this.  My husband acted like this was common knowledge, so perhaps I simply missed out on this.

    1. Karen June 21, 2016

      You aren’t the only one.  I’ve known that Jeeves was a name for fictional butlers, but I never knew that the reference came from this book.

       

    2. Michele Womble June 21, 2016

      We’re supposed to not like the main character.  He himself hints at this when he says that none of his aunts are happy to see him when he comes (except Aunt Dahlia, and I suspect she won’t be happy to see him coming in the future) and whenever someone seeks his presence it’s because they really want Jeeves.  (Which is what Aunt Dahlia wanted, as well.)  It’s interesting that Wodehouse was able to write a character that isn’t likeable, and yet keep me wanting to read more because he’s ruining everything and it’s so hilariously funny.  Usually when I really don’t like the main character or can’t sympathize with the main character at least in some way,  I don’t finish the book.  But that may be because the real main character – the one we’re supposed to like – is Jeeves.

    3. Amy Young June 21, 2016

      Spring!!!! I think you have enlightened the whole world! I had not put those two pieces of information together. Suddenly, I feel smarter and tiny bit taller! Thank you 🙂

  4. Sarah Hilkemann June 20, 2016

    I’ve been loving the interactions and conversations between the characters in this book so far- especially between Jeeves and Bertie, and Bertie and his aunt. I haven’t quite finished the first part for this week, so I’ll need to get going on it, but it is nice to have a book that brings laughter and is just fun. 🙂

    1. Amy Young June 21, 2016

      Me too 🙂 . . . don’t you wish all conversation were so witty and filled with such banter? Happy reading!

  5. Phyllis June 21, 2016

    “I felt like I was hearing the book in my head more than other books I’ve read recently. In fact, it reads more like a sitcom.”
    That’s why it works so well on TV! Really, I don’t usually like watching stuff, but I love the Jeeves and Wooster shows. We watched them all for family movie nights. Those are the voices I hear when I read these books.

    1. Michele Womble June 21, 2016

      Phyllis, could you tell me where or how you watched them?  I’m trying to find them now, I would love for us to watch them for OUR family movie nights.

      1. Phyllis June 21, 2016

        YouTube. 🙂 All the episodes are there. Or they were.

        1. Amy Young June 21, 2016

          I just found them! I’ll link next week and in the name of “research” will watch one :)! (or maybe more . . . )

  6. Elizabeth June 21, 2016

    I’m loving it! Only a couple chapters in and loving it. (I’m late to the game, but seeing as how this is the first book club book I’ve read in a while, I’d say that’s doing pretty good.) Also, have to admit, I started reading it out loud to myself (under my breath, not too loud), because it is even funnier that way.

    I’m so glad you found us something funny! In fact the assurance of humor (and the free price tag) was the only reason I decided to read it. I am low on both humor and fiction in my life, having recently taken an inventory of my shelves and finding nearly everything to be in one of two categories: 1) science or 2) spirituality. I need some variety!

    1. Michele Womble June 21, 2016

      I’ve been trying to read it “out loud” in my mind – not actually out loud, but imagining how it sounds – it does make it funnier.

      I’m a bit burned out on other things, too – possibly because of it being the end of the school year, etc…but this is like a glass of fresh, cool water for me – fun.  I went on Amazon and downloaded several more of his free Jeeves books – which I may or may not read someday – but it feels good knowing they are there if I need a laugh (which I know is convoluted, because since they are free I could have downloaded them any time I wanted to read them, but it feels good knowing they are “on the shelf”.  ) Not sure to what extent that’s a commentary on how “done” my mind is right now….

      Are you feeling more balanced (rested?), Elizabeth?

      1. Elizabeth June 22, 2016

        Thank you for asking, Michele, yes I am 🙂 There are several factors at work here, the first of which was asking for prayer (which I’ve talked about already), the second of which has been discovering, setting, and sticking to my own personal boundaries, and the third of which has been learning the secret of ordinary time — seeing the momentary beauty in the every day and taking deep breaths and drinking them in. I plan to blog about all that eventually, but that’s the short answer 🙂

        And I totally get wanting to have those books on my kindle, just in case. I mean, what if I’m somewhere that doesn’t have internet? I want to be able to start on my book anyway 😉 There is a comfort, even if it’s not the godliest, to having those books accessible and shelf-ready!

    2. Amy Young June 21, 2016

      I’ve been a bit low on humor and fiction too :). This has been a delightful find, thanks to Kay!

  7. Kay Bruner June 21, 2016

    Amy!  I’m so happy you picked my pick!  People all over the world are laughing and it makes me SO HAPPY!!!!  I read one time that Wodehouse would type up his manuscript, tack all the pages up on his wall, and if he didn’t laugh on every single page, he’d go back and revise.  I think it worked 🙂

    1. Amy Young June 21, 2016

      I’m so happy YOU suggested it!! We’ll call this book the laugh heard round the world! and I love hearing tidbits about an author 🙂

       

      and I agree . . . it worked!

       

       

  8. Kiera June 21, 2016

    Well, I have less self-control than you, Amy, because I definitely finished the entire book in 2 days. Hi-lar-i-ous! British stuff always cracks me up. Partly because like you, I hear the characters in my head and it’s so much funnier in a British accent – why that is, I don’t know. I have a love/hate relationship with Bertie’s shorthand. I can’t always figure it out. But usually I can, and then I’m just amused that he feels the need to shorten everything. Like some of you said above, I think Bertie is a lovable, unlovable character. A bit like Fanny Price in Mansfield Park who is so mousie you want to slap her, and yet so endearing. Reminds me of a chapter I just read in Simply Tuesday (Emily P. Freeman) about why Charlie Brown is so lovable even though he’s always “losing” or being embarrassed. I think it takes real skill to write lovable, unlovable characters.

    The telegram series in the beginning is so funny. My favorite line, by far, “Deeply regret Brinkley Court hundred miles from London, as unable hit you with a brick.”

    I looked a little into PG Wodehouse too to try and remember if I’d ever read anything from him before and this sentence from the wikipedia site astounded me, ” Early in his career he would produce a novel in about three months, but he slowed in old age to around six months.” He “slowed” in old age to writing a novel in 6 months. Wow! Although, granted he took up to two years preparing the plot. The article also talked about Wodehouse’s playing with words which may be another reason why I enjoyed it so much. Anyways, great choice for book club! 🙂

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