Jeeves And The Impending Doom by P.G. Wodehouse, 1926
The magic trick:
Mastering the art of situation comedy
Entire books could be devoted to exploring the genius that is the Bertie Wooster first-person narration in Wodehouse’s Jeeves stories. But, as I plan to highlight other Jeeves stories in the future on this blog, I will save that talk for a later date, instead focusing today on a point that is very specific to this story.
“The Impending Doom” features one of the great comic set pieces of Wodehouse’s career. I laughed and I laughed and I laughed when I first read this story, to the point of having to set the book down for a few minutes before I could compose myself enough to read on. Yes, it’s that funny. The language, as always, is brilliantly hilarious, but the scenario Wodehouse concocts here really is the show stealer. I will not go into details for fear of ruining it for the uninitiated. Sufficed to say, it involves “Treasure Island,” a rain storm, and a rather angry swan. It is the world’s funniest sitcom episode and it was written before there were such things. And that’s quite a trick on Wodehouse’s part.
“But, good heavens, Jeeves! If I remember Treasure Island, Flint was the bird who went about hitting people with a cutlass. You don’t think young Thomas would bean Mr. Filmer with a cutlass?”
“Possibly he does not possess a cutlass, sir.”
“Well, with anything.”
“We can but wait and see, sir. The tie, if I might suggest it, sir, a shade more tightly knotted. One aims at the perfect butterfly effect. If you will permit me –“
“What do ties matter, Jeeves, at a time like this? Do you realize that Mr. Little’s domestic happiness is hanging in the scale?”
“There is no time, sir, at which ties do not matter.”