Millennium Post

Old wine or new Wodehouse?

A new Jeeves-Wooster novel is being written. Will you pick it up?

‘Jeeves… who was the fellow who on looking at something felt like somebody looking at something… I learned the passage at school but it has escaped me.’

The subtle humour of PG Wodehouse is not everybody’s read. Like wine, it is an acquired taste. And like ballet, you need to be initiated to his never over-the-top, mostly tongue-in-cheek, and often wicked, crisp British brand of humour early in life to form a lifetime’s bond with the vague Bertram Wooster and his wise, Shakespeare-quoting, widely-read gentleman’s gentleman Reginald Jeeves, Wodehouse’s most popular characters.

Now, 38 years after Wodehouse’s death, Random House has announced the publication of a new Jeeves-Wooster novel, to be written by Sebastian Faulks. Titled Jeeves and the Wedding Bells, the novel will be the first officially-sanctioned book since Wodehouse’s death in 1975.

London-based Faulks, the author of bestsellers such as Birdsong and A Week In December, has received the sanction of The Wodehouse Estate to pen Jeeves and the Wedding Bells. Will the confused Bertie, who always evaded marriage and whom marriage has always evaded, even after coming dangerously close to tying-the-knot with Bobby Wickham, Madeline Bassett and Honoria Glossop, to name a few of his infatuations, finally be domesticated. While that remains to be seen, a new Bertie-Jeeves title has already created a stir among Wodehouse loyalists. Reactions though, are mixed.

Reasons why Wodehouse loyalists are looking forward to Jeeves and the Wedding Bells:

Because it will give us another opportunity to be a part of a new spot that vague, confused Bertram Wooster lands himself in, only to be rescued by his brilliant, fish-eating ‘gentleman’s gentleman’ Jeeves, not without a bit of bullying or having fun at his expense… Jeeves’, ever polite, but often patronising treatment of Wooster (think of his disapproval of Bertie’s hairstyle, tie, hat or passion for a certain musical instrument in different books), is the stuff vintage Wodehouse is made of. And Jeeves is the messiah for not just Wooster, but all his friends and family, who manage to put themselves in conditions (read money trouble, family woes or heartbreak) where they need Jeeves’ expertise with reassuring regularity.

Because of the brand of tongue-in-cheek humor. Is it time, that Wodehouse wrote in or portrayed or is it just normal stiff-upper-life British aristocratic life. We are not sure. But we do hope, the modern-day Jeeves and Wooster will continue to crack us up as ever.

Because of the language. In the era of American domination, Wodehouse can teach you the no-frills, crisp British English, that even a BBC will fail to do.

Because we are tired of mommy porn, vampire romance (read Fifty Shades of Grey and Twilight) and that’s all that has come in our way of modern English fiction recently.

Because after growing up with Enid Blyton’s school, farm and adventure series, PG Wodehouse has been, for many of us, the grown-up fiction that we graduated to.

Why we are scared that someone other than Wodehouse is writing of Wooster and Jeeves:

Because Wodehouse is difficult to imitate. Well, come on confess.

How many of those who spent every leisure hour with a Wodehouse in hand, didn’t try to infuse that same sharp flavour in their school or college essays and failed. Wodehouse is iconic not just for the characters he created, but his brand of language and humour, which are uniquely Wodehouse. And while Faulks may be a bestselling author… can he do justice to Jeeves? To doubt is human.

Because all sequels of successful books and films series, sometimes even when made by the original creator, has a tendency to disappoint.

And this is not even written by Wodehouse. Think Rhett Butler’s People… the retelling of the iconic Gone With the Wind from the male protagonist’s perspective. We rest our case.

Because a bad new book can spoil our memories of the original.

Because writing is a creative occupation and to recreate another author’s iconic characters is not just difficult, but cramps the writer’s individual style. Faulks may be a brilliant author, but the pressure to write like Wodehouse may be a liability.

Because we are Wodehouse loyalists.  And that’s reason enough.
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