Jeeves And The Song Of Songs by P.G. Wodehouse, 1929
The magic trick:
Sharp funny dialogue
OK, here we have it. After two days of reading Jeeves training-wheels stories, we have the real-deal bicycle. Everything we expect in a Jeeves story is here. We have the hilarious narrative voice. We have the brilliantly drawn Bertie, full of pride and ignorance. We have the zany plot, driven in the shadows by Jeeves. My favorite part, however, is the dialogue. Wodehouse lets the plot breathe. There really isn’t much of one, but that’s fine. He is stretching out as a writer and relishing the hilarity of the conversations that happen in between plot points. Each conversation has its own slightly nuanced dynamic too, as we see the relationships between Bertie and Tuppy, Bertie and his Aunt Dahlia, and of course Bertie and Jeeves each take on different power struggles. They share one thing: they’re all laugh-out-loud funny. And that’s quite a trick on Wodehouse’s part.
‘Less of it,’ she begged, ‘less of it. You know that friend of yours, young Glossop?’
‘He’s just been lunching here.’
‘He has, has he? Well, I wish you’d poisoned his soup.’
‘We didn’t have soup. And, when you describe him as a friend of mine, I wouldn’t quite say the term absolutely squared with the facts. Some time ago, one night when we had been dining together at the Drones – ‘
At this point Aunt Dahlia – a little brusquely, it seemed to me – said that she would rather wait for the story of my life till she could get it in book-form. I could see now that she was definitely not her usual sunny self, so I shelved my personal grievances and asked what was biting her.
‘It’s that young hound Glossop,’ she said.
‘What’s he been doing?’
‘Breaking Angela’s heart.’ (Angela. Daughter of above. My cousin. Quite a good egg.)
‘Breaking Angela’s heart?’
‘Yes . . . Breaking . . . Angela’s . . . HEART!’
‘You say he’s breaking Angela’s heart?’
She begged me in a rather feverish way to suspend the vaudeville cross-talk stuff.
‘How’s he doing that?’ I asked.
‘With his neglect. With his low, callous, double-crossing duplicity.’
‘Duplicity is the word, Aunt Dahlia,’ I said. ‘In treating of young Tuppy Glossop, it springs naturally to the lips. Let me just tell you what he did to me one night at the Drones. We had finished dinner – ‘