1. Could you tell us the name of a book that you love, and why?
I love this book for many reasons, one because it’s hilarious and well-written. And secondly because it embodies my grandmother so much. She was a poet, but she mostly read “other things.” He favorites were science magazines and P.G. Wodehouse (1881-1975) the Über English humorist. One of the strongest memories I have of her, is her laying in bed eating chocolate bars and intermittently cackling and cracking up while reading Jeeves and Wooster stories.
This particular Everyman Modern Library edition from 1958 was sitting on her bedside table when she passed away. Without thinking, I took it, and couldn’t let it go. I’ve had it close by me every since. I smell the pages.
2. Where were you when you first read, or saw, or heard of this book?
I hadn’t read much on my own of P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster stories until after college when grandma was always listening to them on tape—since she’d lost her eyesight. There’s nothing better than an classic English actor reading classic English humor. I was hooked.
But I first “saw” the books in her house in Goshen, VT. They’re all still there, scattered throughout all the bookshelves.
Whenever I read his work I start thinking and acting like an aristocrat. I start peering into fancy brownstone windows on West 10th street in Manhattan and picturing having someone around to fix my social problems and help me with hangovers.
And it makes me want to write prose. It’s absolutely influenced the tone in a lot of what I do. And how I serve a martini—total finesse. Like a 20’s bachelor.
4. Give us a line or excerpt from the text that intrigues, engages, mystifies, inspires, disgusts, or transforms you. Discuss…
“I’m not absolutely certain of my facts, but I rather fancy it’s Shakespeare—or, if not, it’s some equally brainy bird—who says that it’s always just when a fellow is feeling particularly braced with things in general that Fate sneaks up behind him with the bit of lead piping. And what I am driving at is that the man is perfectly right.” (Jeeves and the Unbidden Guest, 50)
Jeeves and Wooster stories might actually be the equivalent of bro-mance movies. Perpetual bachelors who grow up mostly surrounded by pals at Eton and Oxford, and controlled by overbearing aunts… it’s definitely an Oscar Wilde world of witty men in clubs and country houses, strolling the gardens having cigarettes in the moonlight. Overly educated, but completely child-like, Bertie Wooster relies entirely on his “gentleman’s personal gentleman” (Jeeves), the quiet, dignified Sherlock Holmes-sized brain that keeps his life together via restorative hangover cocktails, impeccable servitude and overwhelming foresight. The juiciest part is the experience are the prose—which is conversational and direct, narrated by Wooster with his dry incredulous tone. It’s unendingly entertaining and a refreshing change from the usual prose style.
5. Who did you send this book to, why?
I’m going to send a version of this book to the poet Dara Wier. Whose probably already read it, but what the hell. I think she’d appreciate it.