It all started almost 30 years ago with Psmith. He was my gateway drug. Then Leave It to Psmith introduced me to Lord Emsworth and others. By the time I blissed out on the Jeeves and Wooster books P.G. Wodehouse occupied a special place on my shelf and in my heart.
So special, in fact, that my repeated readings have worn out most of my Wodehouse books. I'm slowly replacing them with those new sturdy acid-free reasonably-priced editions from The Overlook Press. I have 30 so far and plan to buy the rest of the run as they release them, six per year.
There is, however, one P.G. Wodehouse book I don't want to replace. The very sight of it ticks me off. I want to banish it from my library, but my gigantic love for the man and his works won't allow me to defile or discard even this blot on the landscape.
I am, of course, referring to:
Ring for Jeeves (aka The Return of Jeeves), P.G. Wodehouse. Hey, I have a great idea! Let's take a Jeeves and Wooster story, remove Wooster and tell it in the third person! Wouldn't that be great! Not. Jeeves without Wooster is as funny as Abbott without Costello, Laurel without Hardy, Lewis with Martin and, well, Fry without Laurie.
The most reliable author ever wasn't. You'd think "Bertie Changes His Mind," a short story in Carry On, Jeeves told from Jeeves's point of view would have taught Wodehouse not to mess with a winning formula, but it didn't. He went out and made it worse and wrote it longer.
Oh well, I try to be philosophical about it. Wodehouse was extraordinarily productive, leaving so many books and short stories as his legacy to us that it seems churlish to not allow him one mistake, even if it was an unbelievably huge error in judgment and execution. I just wish, had he wanted to experiment a little, that he'd not eviscerated a Jeeves and Wooster book with his cruel tinkering, leaving us with a book that looks like a regular Jeeves and Wooster book, but isn't, sort of feels like a regular Jeeves and Wooster book, but only in the most superficial way, and even partakes of some of the humor of a regular Jeeves and Wooster book (the man was a genius, after all, so even his misses hit sometimes), but in the end just isn't the same. There's something sacrilegious about altering a Jeeves and Wooster book in this way. Reading it just feels wrong.
The worst part is, every decade or so I notice Ring for Jeeves on my shelf and think "Hullo! What's this? Here's one I can't recite from heart!" I get all excited as I settle down and open it up and start reading it. Then I notice it's in the third person, there's this Earl of Towcester guy, he's like the poor man's Bertie, and then my mood sinks as I realize this is that phony Jeeves book. "Curses, fooled again!" I cry as I toss it aside and desperately lunge for Code of the Woosters or Joy in the Morning, clinging to it as a restorative. It's usually a few days before I start to recover, and in a matter of years I'm completely healed, my memories of the matter successfully repressed, which then leaves me vulnerable to repeating the cruel cycle all over again.
And so it goes.
That does it for the Five Books I Should've Liked But Didn't series. Hasn't this been a negative week? I'm considering making up for it with a week of Books I Shouldn't Have Liked But Did, and then maybe leavening that with a week of Books I Shouldn't Have Liked and Didn't, and maybe ending on a high note with a week of Books I Should've Liked and Did. A week of Books I Own But Have Never Read might get thin real fast, and a week of Books I've Never Heard Of, while having a certain appeal, to be sure, presents logistical challenges so formidable I fear they cannot be overcome.