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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Mating Season--P. G, Wodehouse

Well, I'm pleased to report that I finally pushed my way through my first (and very likely last) P. G. Wodehouse novel.  I've read selected shorts here and there and always wanted to attempt a novel.  Now, with the backing and help of my book group, I've done so--a milestone accomplishment.

However, I fear the task was accomplished with dismal results.  My report will not tickle the ears of many, because I found Wodehouse the literary equivalent of the Three Stooges when I was hoping for the Marx Brothers.  Reading through this story of mixed up identities at the house of the fearsome Aunts, I was constantly amused and frequently dismayed.  Dismayed, because it seemed that every line strained so hard to amuse, tried so hard to be funny, worked feverishly to entertain, with the net result that the entertainment value, for me, was diminished.  And perhaps the most telling point of all--Jeeves and his actions occupies all of about twenty pages in the entire opus.  This is nearly all devoted to the fathead Bernie Wooster, who, if one were to meet in real life, one would be tempted to give a stern lecture to about coming to terms with reality.

That's not to say that there were not some extremely amusing, laugh-out-loud moments in the book.  (One of them comes in the description of an exotic dancer than must have been the inspiration for "The Cobra Dance" of Bride and Prejudice fame.)

But the net effect, the final summation, for me was that while the book amused, it did so to the point of tiresomeness--that effect that comes when, while reading you're also squeezing those pages you have left to go and wondering if you'll get through them and if so, when.

Summation--I find myself hard-pressed to recommend this book.  I find myself perplexed by the legions of fans who are wild about these books even while acknowledging that there are some powerfully amusing moments.  Sadly, I would say, that if a fan this might tickle your fancy, but I suspect that it is not a good place for the novice reader to start.

Even so, well written, and if not my cup of tea, reasonably well executed--***1/2

8 comments:

  1. My father-in-law told me many years ago when I was chortling over one of the Wodehouse tales featuring the Empress of Blandings (a pig of superior qualities), "I loved those books when I was young but they don't make me laugh any more."

    I couldn't imagine it, but I now find myself in the same position as my daughter can't stop giggling over Bertie Wooster while I don't laugh at them any more. :-)

    I do love the Hughes and Fry BBC depictions of Bertie and Jeeves though. Those still transcend the age limit for me.

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  2. I'm with you completely, Steven; I find Wodehouse very dreary, such forced humour.

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  3. Steven,

    I've only read a few of his short stories and decided that I couldn't take a whole novel. It's just not my type of comedy.

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  4. Julie, Anthony, and Fred,

    Thank you for your comments; it is good to know that I am in good company. While everyone in the book group found it a relatively easy read, we all came away with the conclusion that we didn't really need to dive into any more.

    I do note that there are some out and out hilarious, laugh-out loud moments--and these would be spotlighted if the rest of the prose didn't work so hard at trying to be funny.

    I liken it to Three Men in a Boat and find the latter to be superior in every way.


    shalom,

    Steven

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  5. On the other hand, I've never been able to get very far with Three Men in a Boat (my fondness for Connie Willis's homage aside).

    I recently noticed that they have it available in audio at Librivox and thought I'd take a fourth run at it since sometimes audio will get me through a book that I couldn't appreciate in print. The Seven Storey Mountain is one such. Though I am very slowly progressing, at least I am progressing and finding good nuggets on the way, which is more than I can say when I tried reading it.

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  6. I found _Three Men in a Boat_ to be overly long. It began well, but as "adventure" succeeded "adventure," I thought Jerome needed an editor. I've read some of Jerome's short works and enjoyed them much more.

    And, to be consistent (my only virtue here, I suppose), I didn't particularly care for the "river journey" part of Connie Willis' novel either. I thought it got more interesting when they got to the house.

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  7. I think the discussion here supports the argument that humor is probably the most individual aspect of taste. I know people whose tastes are quite similar and agree on most everything--except what's funny and what's not.

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