Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Alexandra Petri has my heart

Reading “Jeeves and the Wedding Bells” will not sell you on Wodehouse. Other than that, the premise is entirely sound. You don’t sell someone on heroin by giving him methadone. Wodehouse is some of the strongest stuff there is, hard to imitate, as Faulks acknowledges, hilarious, tightly plotted and easy to read. It is the genuine article. So I don’t understand why we’re doing this exactly. Are the originals being put back into the Disney vault? If you are trying to sell someone on the Beatles, you don’t hand them a cover by Carrie Underwood. If you want to sell someone on hamburgers, you don’t hire a guy to tell him how good it would be if he were eating a hamburger and draw him a picture of How I Remember Hamburgers To Be, A Nostalgic Harmony To The Hamburger Of My Youth. Do you? No. You hand him a hamburger. Why would a novel that admits it is only a poor imitation of the original, set in the same world and with the same characters, somehow attract people to the original? Is there some hypothetical Young Person who hasn’t read Wodehouse on the grounds that “he hasn’t published anything in a while, but if he came out with a new book, I’d see him differently”? Because this person sounds like an idiot, and I don’t know why we have to cater to him.
(But yes, of course it was this: 'Faulks has a good handle on Wodehouse’s rhythm — IF SOMEONE TAKES THIS HALF OF THE SENTENCE AND USES IT AS A BLURB I WILL HAVE YOUR GUTS FOR GARTERS — if not his music.')