In order to write divertingly, some might even say, ‘amusingly’, there has to be a certain, shall we say, joie de vivre, even espèglerie about one’s existence. Being mournful by temperament and being aware that “kvetch” is my favorite Yiddish word, I have not been playing to par in recent times, the old golf swing having developed a pronounced slice into the Slough of Despond. Much of this of course has to do with the fact that I seem to be retired. Again. The old war-horse put out to pasture in his declining years, no longer fit for the fields of Agincourt, just a little browsing and sluicing in the better neighborhoods of Paris.
Just northward of the Place de la Concorde, however, is a small taste of England, a small taste is all that one really requires as it happens, since the smell of rain-sodden woollen clothing and endless queues around London’s orbital roads can easily be brought to shuddering recollection. I refer, of course, to W H Smith. England’s High Street bookshop. Having been mercilessly seduced by the fact that with one casual flick of the finger, my iPad adds to its not inconsiderable library, it is quite a change to walk into the bookshop – we call them ‘shops’ in England, not ‘stores’ if memory serves, and find volumes to delight, enamour and amuse.
Sebastian Faulks is a scribbler of no mean ability, who has dared to take on the languid world of P G Wodehouse’s aristocratic ass, Bertie Wooster and his man, or rather, ‘gentleman’s personal gentleman’, Jeeves, in what has been described as a “polished, sparkling, genuine fake”.
As a stripling of pre-pubescent years, I systematically went through all of the originals, like a determined silkworm demolishing a mulberry leaf. The Rev “Stinker” Pinker, boxing half-blue at Oxford and I became chummy and I was a peripatetic member of the Drones Club, clustering in the billiard room along with Gussie Fink-Nottle, Oofy Prosser, Bingo Little and all the others whose lives were made easier by a flat in Berkeley Square and a stonking great trust fund able to clear the National Debt of Bechuanaland. Like Bertie’s Aunt Dahlia, I have my own Anatole, legendary hash-slinger who also acts as my sartorial maître d’, much as Jeeves consigns his master’s more eccentric purchases to the dungeons of poor taste.
In short, the philosopher Wittgenstein and I are in one accord that P G, or Plum, was a soundish egg and full of the right stuff. Interested readers might remember Fry and Laurie as Jeeves and Wooster; this is a classic episode.
Only the galactic talent of one S Faulks might therefore be in a position to imitate the Great Man, which he does with, as Jeeves might have murmured, remarkable verisimilitude. Once again, Bertie is in the soup and it requires all of Jeeves’ best and brightest schemes and effortless machinations to ease him out of it, win the girl and make a small fortune on the Gold Cup.