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Ask Jeeves


My Man Jeeves coverTitle: My Man Jeeves
Author: P. G. Wodehouse
Publisher: Project Gutenberg (2005, originally 1919); ePub (PG ebook #8164)

I like the feel of a book in my hands. Not just any edition will do, either. I strongly prefer what are known as “trade paperbacks” over “pocket paperbacks” or even hardcover books. Paper is important too. It should be clean white, but not too bright; acid-free, and not too stiff. The book should be large enough, and the paper supple enough, to open easily. I’ve always “judged a book by its cover” at least to some extent.

But the times they are a changin’. E-book readers are all the rage, and I’m starting to see some value to carrying around 1000+ books on a device smaller than one 200-page trade paperback. A device that can be operated with one hand using a touch screen might come in very handy for me quite soon. So, I’ve resolved to try out the technology.

I created an account with the free on-line ePub reader site Bookworm.oreilly.com, uploaded My Man Jeeves from the Gutenberg Project (also free) to my Bookworm library, and read the book using Firefox and Opera browsers. I don’t own a handheld e-book reader yet, so I read this book sitting at a desk. This is not the optimum setup, for sure. In fact it’s far from it (there’s nothing handy and portable about a desktop computer). But as far as the formatting, the font and the usability of the software, I have no complaints. I can see how well this is likely to translate to a handheld device, and I’m sure this won’t be the last e-book I read.

As for the book itself (by which I mean the stories), well, it is lightly entertaining. Funny enough, but to me, unattractively dated. I know that Dorothy L. Sayers’ Bunter owes something to Wodehouse’s Jeeves (and unless I’m imagining this, Lord Peter refers to Jeeves once or twice), but really, Bunter would never make any of the boneheaded suggestions that Bertie Wooster thinks are so clever of Jeeves. Jeeves is also decidedly dishonest, or at least he has no qualms about advising his employer to be so. I guess when it comes to English valets, I’d stick with the unflappable Bunter.

I was surprised that half of the stories don’t feature Bertie Wooster and Jeeves at all. Now that I’ve educated myself on the subject (thanks Wikipedia!), I realize this collection was published before Wodehouse had fully realized his characters. In fact, the four Jeeves stories were rewritten for and/or reprinted in a later collection. I have a hunch (based on Wodehouse’s reputation) that his Jeeves stories got better over time.

For obvious reasons (to those who know my “tendencies”), I can’t resist quoting the following passage from the first story in the book, “Leave it to Jeeves”:

He wouldn’t have got this if his uncle hadn’t had a hobby. Mr. Worple was peculiar in this respect. As a rule, from what I’ve observed, the American captain of industry doesn’t do anything out of business hours. When he has put the cat out and locked up the office for the night, he just relapses into a state of coma from which he emerges only to start being a captain of industry again. But Mr. Worple in his spare time was what is known as an ornithologist. He had written a book called American Birds, and was writing another, to be called More American Birds. When he had finished that, the presumption was that he would begin a third, and keep on till the supply of American birds gave out. Corky used to go to him about once every three months and let him talk about American birds. Apparently you could do what you liked with old Worple if you gave him his head first on his pet subject, so these little chats used to make Corky’s allowance all right for the time being. But it was pretty rotten for the poor chap. There was the frightful suspense, you see, and, apart from that, birds, except when broiled and in the society of a cold bottle, bored him stiff.


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