Wodehouse and Pseudo-Wodehouse

I recently read Sebastian Faulks’ attempt to be P.G. Wodehouse writing a Jeeves novel and looking at his earlier works I can’t imagine why they chose him.   He wrote Charlotte Gray for goodness sake.  And a Bond novel.    And he denies that this is what he is doing “I’m just a fan” and doesn’t add so don’t blister my ear if I’m not Wodehousean enough for you, though frankly I don’t think you should shirk that if it comes your way.   If you write a novel riding on someone else’s coattails, then accept the guff with the smooth.   Or as in the actual Wodehouse novel I read immediately after (or rather sort of started midway) take a few smooths with a rough.    But despite having a list of credentials which in no way seem to recommend him (Every cover is the sort of earnest piffle Bertram would steer clear of.   Not a detective novel among ’em.), he didn’t do a bad job.   Rather good, actually.   I don’t quite see the point because there are something like 80 Wodehouse books.   Only the most dedicated could have run out.  But here it is.   Bertie, in the south of France (and here things get confusing because the one I read semi-simultaneously Right Ho, Jeeves, also has Bertie in the South of France at the beginning) meets a lovely girl named Georgiana Meadowes.   Georgiana for reasons of filthy lucre and saving the old homestead is going to marry some blighter and Bertie and Jeeves end up in the same house trying to help Bertie’s friend marry his beloved, Amelia.  That both of these girls are cousins in the same house is Wodehousean enough.   Jeeves ends up (starts off, really) disguised as one of the upper crust which leaves Bertie below stairs.  A novel device as far as I know and it works all right.   Bertie still sounds fairly Bertie-like.   The beloved is a good character and though there are too many worldly mentions it seems to me (Jarring, you see.   Pulls you out of their world and into this.   All wrong.  But then what can you expect from a man who wrote a book called Human Traces?)   Jeeves and the Wedding Bells was entertaining and Wodehousean enough if you’ve read all the Wooster and Jeeves stories and desperately need a new one.


But since it had been a while and I wanted to see if Faulks was as far off as he seemed when I was first reading it (I think I have to say he wasn’t.   I was bothered at first by every little thing and later on just relaxed and read it.)   So, I pulled up Right Ho, Jeeves which I’d put on my Kindle a year and bit ago.   I read a lot of Wodehouse in my teens and twenties, but not much since.   As I mentioned before the two openings are oddly similar.   Bertie has been in the south of France.   But in this one it was with his cousin Angela and Aunt Dahlia – the one he likes.   There is conflict with Jeeves over his new mess jacket and further conflict with Jeeves over Jeeves’ support of Bertie’s old friend Gussie Fink-Nottle the newt fancier.

I threw my mind back to the last time I had seen him.  About two years ago, it had been.  I had looked in at his place while on a motor trip, and he had put me right off my feed by bringing a couple of green things with legs to the luncheon table, crooning over them like a young mother and eventually losing one of them in the salad.

 Gussie wants to marry Madeleine Bassett, but cannot work up the nerve to say so to her.   Jeeves recommends going to a costume party

And he was attending that fancy-dress ball, mark you– not, like every other well-bred Englishman, as a Pierrot, but as Mephistopheles

(It made me laugh to imagine a fancy dress ball in which every male is dressed as Pierrot) which will give Gussie the courage to speak to Miss Bassett.   Bertie is quite sure that Jeeves’ great brain has withered.   Jeeves is past it.   So, Bertie decides to solve this and all following problems himself.  Here’s a hint how that goes:  Dahlia starts calling him Attila.  Plotwise the similarities are great:  country houses, broken engagements, misunderstandings between young lovers, but laughwise Wodehouse wins hands down.   5, at least, to 1/2.   But then what would you expect from a man whose next book is titled Where My Heart Used to Beat?

RIP X – Belated Entry

This entry is belated not because I didn’t read it in time, but because I never got around to writing about it.  Three weeks or so ago I finished Alan Melville’s Quick Curtain.   I read a review of it somewhere and it sounded right up my alley – a huge West End musical sort of Busby Berkeley type production is interrupted by the shooting death of its star on opening night.   It seems obvious who did it, but Inspector Wilson of Scotland Yard believes otherwise and with his reporter son they duly investigate.   If you love witty, breezy, insouciant dialogue this book may be for you.   If you love a good mystery, especially full of cunning twists and excellent clueing this book is not for you.   Or me.   I loved the theater atmosphere, the 30s setting, the banter between father and son.   I even liked the way the first 50 pages or so are almost pure description – witty, insouciant description, but description nonetheless.   This is a fun read, but not a good mystery.   At the end it’s sort of like the author said oh, hang it and gave up entirely – so if that sort of disappointment will spoil it, steer clear.  Others think differently and enjoy the end.  We all enjoyed the light breeziness of the novel and I wish I could find it to find a few quotes, but oh, well.   I did buy another of his because I enjoyed it that much.  That should tell you something.


I, of course, did not read this one, but the new British Library Crime Classics edition.   Beautiful books.    Looking forward to reading others.

So, for RIP I did read 4 books.   Not bad.   Meant to throw in a short story and a movie or two, but there it is.   I love this event and hope it happens again next year!   Thanks to Carl and Heather and Andi for creating and hosting!

Book the First complete
Peril the First complete

1924 – A short survey of beginnings of books

Simon at Stuck in a Book and Karen at Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings co-hosted a fun event – read a book from 1924 and report on it.   Piece of cake, right?   Well, apparently not for me.   I started off with The Green Hat by Michael Arlen.  What is it even about?  I don’t know.   I only read the first few chapters in which a woman named Iris Storm tries to visit her brother around midnight.  Her brother is too drunk to receiver her. The neighbor below lets her in and is clearly fascinated with her.  They chat until sunrise – a sort of boring, precious talk of Bright Young Things of 1924.   I didn’t understand half their conversation.   I also didn’t understand why, if he was moving, he sent all the bookcases ahead and left the books all over the floor.  Surely this was odd behavior even in 1924?


So, I could tell I wasn’t going to finish that in time so I switched to So Big by Edna Ferber.  It won the Pulitzer for 1924 and I loved Saratoga Trunk, so I thought this will go better.  And it did at first.  It is much more readable.  The daughter of a gambler goes to a good girls’ school, they eat well when he’s in funds and struggle when he’s not, but I enjoyed this first part.   Then she’s on her own and apparently spends the next 10 years or something becoming a bedraggled farmer’s wife.   Well, I might keep reading it, but bedraggled farmer’s wives aren’t my thing at all. Plus it was still long to try to finish in the time left so I found on my Kindle A. Fielding’s the Eames-Erskine Case.

Yeesh, what a horrible cover.

A. Fielding or A.E. is an almost completely forgotten mystery writer from around 1924 for about 20 years.   She wrote 25 mysteries according to The Passing Tramp which also includes an entertaining hypothesis that A. Fielding was a pseudonym for A. Christie trying out a different sort of writing.  There are some similarities especially to her adventure books – a plucky heroine investigating and getting herself in trouble (she doesn’t show up until halfway through) and a marked respect for the police and their abilities.  The story is strange and rambling and overly complicated.  It opens with a man finding a body in his hotel room wardrobe.  The young man inside was supposed to have gone to the country for the weekend, but instead apparently took a large dose of morphia.  There are many issues with this right off the bat.  For one thing, he apparently unscrewed panels from the back of the wardrobe, but how did he put them back?  He can’t have, of course.   And then, there’s no sign of the morphia or anything to drink it from.   Very sloppy work, murderer.   If you want to kill someone and make it look like a suicide, you leave the means of suicide with the body.   If you can get past these peculiarities and many more, it is not a bad read.   Chief Inspector Pointer is a good character, although his roommate whom he talks things over with is fairly useless.  He goes off to France for reasons we don’t know until he reveals them at the end, which is annoying.   It’s the sort of book that can entertain if you’re a forgiving reader and annoy the heck out of you if you’re not.   I probably will try another Fielding at some point.  This is either her first or possibly second book, so she probably got better.


Spoileriffic addendum:   Nope, the more I think about it the more senseless it gets.   If you’re in a hotel and the wardrobe won’t open, don’t you call the manager or housekeeping?    And if you do unscrew the back and then replace it, where do the extra screws come from which are later discovered in a suspect’s trunk?   There shouldn’t be any extra screws.  And I seriously doubt you can replace someone’s cough syrup with morphia, then put the cough syrup back and there are no traces of morphia in the bottle?     This book is terrible.   And yet not.   Oh, someone else read this and let me know what you think.

The Monk – Spoiler Free

Or spoiler-lite.   I should probably never promise to be completely spoiler-free.   The Monk by Matthew Lewis was huge HUGE back in the day.  A Gothic novel that packs every gothic trope in it’s I’m-not-sure-how-many-pages-because-I-read-the-ebook.  I have a weakness for Gothic novels which lead me to read things like The Mysteries of Udolpho in my misspent youth.   Long, tedious, wait forever for revelations which weren’t all that dramatic when you got to them.   I tried to read Melmoth the Wanderer, but when I accidentally skipped 100 pages and couldn’t tell, I stopped.   The Monk suffers from none of this.   It dives right into the action and pretty soon horrible things are happening right and left.  Always remember, if you show a gypsy curse in the first scene, it’s got to go off in the third act.   Innocent young women go through hell.   There are picturesque castles, ghosts, bandits, sorcery, evil monks and nuns – it is, as I said before, packed.


There are tedious parts and many intolerable attitudes about sex and women that haven’t entirely died out even today, but if you don’t expect that from a 200 year old book, I’m not sure what to tell you.    One of the so-called heroes or men you expect to be heroic completely falls down on the job.   The other does pretty well, but neither is terribly impressive.   The timelines of the plots are ridiculous.  The villain is a dope which can get frustrating.   Characters are introduced and disappear for no good reason.   It is a heavily flawed book no one could get away with writing today, but if you like this sort of story, and I do, a little tolerance and it’s still a real page-turner.

Monkalong V – A Day Late, A Buck Short

I’ll write a nonspoilery review of this, too.   But thanks, Alice and my fellow readers!  I had a blast.  Matthew Lewis

No, not that one. I suspect it would be a very different book if written by him.

kept up the insanity to the very end.   The Monk is a moron and can’t even make a proper deal with the devil.  Matilda turns out to be not a fellow victim, but a fellow demon, which actually crossed my mind at one point, but doesn’t count cuz I didn’t write it down.   I felt sorry for him in the end.  I don’t think all he goes through at the end was worth a week of getting it off.   I grant he’s evil, but it’s all so stupid and pointless.   He kills out of cowardice, which doesn’t make it right, and certainly what he did to Antonia is unforgivable, but I’m not into vengeance and torture and so on, so reading the monk’s horrible end wasn’t much fun.   Perhaps if he’d reveled in his evil and really had a good time it would feel more justified, but he was miserable most of the time – before he commits his crimes, while he’s committing his crimes, after he commits the crimes.   Dumbass monk.   I wish the Evil Mother Superior knew before she died what a wretch she was trying to impress.


For all the idiocy, and there is plenty, a ridiculous plot, a useless hero, a pathetic villain, I still love this book.  It’s a roller coaster of happenings.   Lewis really packs it in.   Ghost nuns, blood stained sheets, escapes, castles in Spain and Germany, banditti, evil nuns, evil monks, young women in danger, beauteous orbs, sorcery, Lucifer, murder, rape, incest, kidnapping… you don’t really need any other Gothic novels.   This one has it all.

Spoilerrific cover
Spoilerrific cover

So, again, thanks Alice!  You pick great reads and have a great group to read with!   And thanks to everyone who blogged along!   As I’ve mentioned before, I can’t seem to comment on most blogs, my words just disappear into cyberspace, but I’ve read everyone’s posts and enjoyed them!    Looking forward to next time!

Monkalong IV – ARGH!

Alice!   How could you?!   I know you didn’t know, but how could you anyway!?!     Argggh!   Reading ended at a moment of tremendous suspense.   Not even suspense really – mid-action!   Which is Lewis’ fault or the publishers, but since last reading I read past and almost wrote about what happened in this part which I don’t want to spoil for anyone who might ever read this so, stop reading this now!


This was labelled as the Bleeding Nun, but I don’t think the illustrator read the book.

Anyway, The Monk turns out to be even more horrible than believed as in a fit of pique he kills Elvira.  Antonia, the dumb bunny, is, of course, doomed at this point.   Poor girl.  He feels bad for about a minute, but quickly returns to figuring out how to make her unhappiness complete.   Having destroyed his magical myrtle he now needs to rely on drugs.   What a wretched excuse for a human being.   It seems like Antonia might have a chance because her maid or whatever takes Elvira’s injunction against the Monk seriously, but he is too slippery for her and Antonia succumbs to the drug which makes you seem dead for two days, beloved of literature.    So, when is this Monk getting sucked down to hell, another scene beloved of literature?

Meanwhile, Don Raymond the useless is lying around in a stupor while his enterprising young servant invades the convent and tries to get word about Agnes.   He sings and charms all the nuns with his good looks.   His plan works and he gets word about Agnes’ fate.   Don Lorenzo rushing around to save Agnes does not realize The Monk is taking out his beloved and her mother.  There is a secretly decent nun in the convent who knows the fate of Agnes (or thinks she does) and in a spectacular bit of theater denounces the Prioress.  This works all too well and the crowd rips her limb from limb.   Okay, he doesn’t say that, he says they harrass her until she gets hit with a rock, but naturally, I don’t believe that for a minute.

So, Lorenzo sees an escaping nun go down into the cloister and follows her and finds all the nuns around a statue that must never be touched which is groaning.  Brave, brave Lorenzo goes down into the pit and rescues a poor nun and her deceased baby (Time in this novel is extremely vague.  It really didn’t seem like months had gone by.   The Ambrosio/Antonia timeline seems like a few weeks maybe, then meanwhile Agnes has had her baby though she was not visibly pregnant at the time and now they’re both near death or dead.   Agnes talks a heckuva lot for someone who hasn’t had water in two days.   Will she live?   Will Virginia the interesting and beautiful get Lorenzo?

As this rescue is taking place Lorenzo & Co. go back into the pit to make sure there aren’t any more when there is a Shriek!  and he goes charging off to save whoever.    We don’t know who or what because the reading ends here!   Alice!!

But actually it’s quite page turny these past couple of sections.  As I mentioned I didn’t stop at the end of part III because I was keen to know what happened next.   And that made me stop now to write it up so I wouldn’t spoil more than part 4 for anyone.   I still think this book is a hoot and if he’d written some more he might have gotten much better at the aspects of it which make it not quite work in some ways, like a sensible timeline.   But Lewis was good at characters and definitely wrote an entertaining read.   And I am grateful to Alice for picking this one.   I think all our reads should have ghost nuns in ’em.   Next week — the end!

Monkalong III – Catching Up

Now I’m only 4 days behind in my Monk reading!   Go, me!   Trying to remember what the heck happened even though it was probably the shortest section.  So I’ll read some of the others’ posts and comment on them.  You can find them here:



Good call on the smartphone.

Mostly agree on Elvira — a fine woman, a good parent and yet, Antonia is not ready for the things she’s already facing.  I’d say a little less tact might have been helpful.

I actually AM reading the poems in the sense that I make my eyes run across every line of text.  They don’t really make it into my brain.

Very odd Lewis’ attitude to superstition.  Sneering about it and then invoking ghosts and bleeding nuns.

The rewritten Bible.  Maybe not so long, edited it’s probably only 50 pages of

The length of the one curtain will be twenty-eight cubits, and the width will be four cubits for the one curtain; one measure will be for all the curtains. Five curtains will be joined to one another,[a] and five curtains joined to one another.[b] And you will make loops of blue on the edge of the one curtain, at the end in the set; and you will do so on the edge of the end curtain in the second set…

Chris – yes, that linnet bit was bizarre.   What other weird fantasies do you have, Mr. Lewis?  Nevermind.  I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough.

Poor Antonia – if she didn’t have bad luck, she’d have no luck at all.

And Ambrosio – gets worse with almost every sentence.   Glimmers of humanity snuffed out under the inundation of his desire for the Next Woman.   Think Ambrosio – you’ll get tired of her in a week, too.   Just leave the convent, dude.   And go far, far away.

Glynis – good call on shenanigans re:  Monk’s innocence when he’s heard all of Madrid’s confessions.   And I think some of those noble ladies would have found a way to proposition him, too.   Since they’re so randy cuz of the heat.

Matilda — is a horrible, horrible, person.   So’s Ambrosio, but he’s a weak follower type.   Matilda is clearly the leader and going to doom them all including herself to a terrible and probably short life.

Phinnea's Book Blog List

Idle thoughts on books and movies. Some new, but mostly old.


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