Friday, November 28, 2014

An insult to P.G. Wodehouse

Sebastian Faulks does P.G. Wodehouse no favors in Jeeves and the Weddings Bells. Intended as an homage to Wodehouse, the first Jeeves and Wooster novel since Wodehouse's last, Aunts Aren't Gentlemen (or The Cat-Nappers), in 1974, seems more like an insult. It lacks the ridiculously complicated plot Wodehouse was known for. More seriously, it lacks the wit.

Sometimes Faulks finds a word or a phrase that sounds authentic, as when he writes "Jeeves shimmied in with the tea tray," but rarely a paragraph or even a complete sentence. As for his chapters, they are too long and never seem to end with any incentive to begin the next one. Jeeves and Wooster novels were never dull, until now.

The early premise of the story is actually quite good. Circumstances oddly call for Jeeves, the manservant, to pretend to be an English lord, while poor Bertie Wooster must play his servant, a wonderful changing of roles that, unfortunately, Faulks never manages to milk for all of its potential humor. The plot, such as it is, involves Bertie trying to aid one of his chums in winning the love of his life and, of course, making a mess of it. Leave it to Jeeves to sort things out in the end, although the resolution seems like something Wodehouse would have never concocted had he written a hundred Jeeves and Wooster novels.

As I've written before, Faulks did a nice job when he paid a similar homage to Ian Fleming in his James Bond novel Devil May Care. His latest tribute novel fails to deliver. But perhaps this is really an homage to Wodehouse after all. It demonstrates that not just anyone, not even a writer as gifted as Sebastian Faulks, can do what he did.

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