Erica’s Pick Of The Week: Jeeves & Wooster

Friends, a dilemma.

I need a good book. Everything I’ve read lately has ranged from, “Fine, I guess,” to “Meh.” I’m leery of starting anything on my TBR pile, because in my current mood, I might miss something I’d normally consider a great book. In short, I am in a reading slump, and it is a terrible, terrible thing.

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The problem, I think, is that too many lackluster stories in a row have left me cranky and overcritical, which makes it hard to enjoy anything I pick up – which makes me MORE cranky and MORE overcritical. I need a way to break the cycle, so if you’ve got suggestions, I’m open to them.

In the meantime, I’ve turned to an old friend – or rather, two: Bertie Wooster, P.G. Wodehouse’s dim-witted, big-hearted young aristocrat, and Jeeves, his wise, faithful, and exceedingly patient valet/ butler/gentleman’s gentleman. Bertie is perpetually getting into scrapes; more often than not, these involve matchmaking for his friends, trying to escape matrimony himself, or appeasing his overbearing aunts. Jeeves is perpetually trying to get Bertie out of said scrapes (and improve his wardrobe in the process). The Jeeves and Wooster stories are funny without trying too hard, clever without being showoffy, madcap without being nonsensical. I have read them many, many times.

Why? First, they’re very, very British, loosely set around the 1920s, and therefore full of house parties and private clubs and people making tea. This makes me unreasonably, inexplicably happy.  Second, they’re easy to pick up and put down. The early Jeeves and Wooster books are actually short story collections, so even if you are distracted by children, the humidity, or general ennui, you can usually make it through one story, which is quite satisfying.

 

Third, and most importantly, they’re brilliant. I know exactly how Bertie’s plans are going to go: spectacularly wrong. But I’m not reading to find out what happens – I’m reading because I want to get lost among these crazy aristocrats and their outlandish schemes. I want to revel in Wodehouse’s playful language and deadpan humor, and admire how he can take a bunch of disparate plot threads and weave them together elegantly. The stories are familiar, yes, but so well-executed that I find something fresh and delightful every time.

This, I’m hoping, is the key to busting out of my slump – spending time with a series I already love might be the thing that will prime my brain to enjoy something new. It’s worked in the past, and crossing my fingers that this time will be no different.

Whether you’re stuck in a slump or not, if you’re looking for something light, funny, and ever-so-slightly addictive, give Jeeves and Wooster a try. We’ve got print, CD audiobook, and eAudio versions – and we’ve also got the excellent television adaptation starring Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie.

(And if you’ve got ideas for can’t-fail titles or other ways to break out of a reading slump, I’d love to hear them – just hit the comments below!)

 

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