|Jeeves, from the failed "Ask Jeeves" website (now ask.com)|
Thank You, Jeeves (1934)
by P.G. Wodehouse
If you are my age, you associate the name "Jeeves" with the failed internet search engine "Ask Jeeves" (now "Ask.com.") If you are twenty years older you might think of Jeeves as the generic term for a butler. Both references are derived from the same place, the Jeeves series of novels by P.G. Wodehouse. Thank You, Jeeves is the first in the series of novels, and it features all the characteristics of a Jeeves novel. Bertram Wooster, an amiable upper class twit from England, gets into a marriage related scrape and worms out of trouble with the help of Jeeves, his condescending, well educated butler.
The plot of Thank You, Jeeves is as emblematic of the series as any, according to the descriptive essay included in the 2006 edition of 1001 Books To Read Before You Die. And although the characters and plotting couldn't be more dated: A major plot point in Thank You, Jeeves involves so-called "Nigger" (I shit you not) jazz musicians and Bertram disguising himself in black face and evoking literally murderous reactions from various servants, afraid that he is a "black devil." Perhaps the only saving grace, in terms of the racist language is that Wodehouse doesn't actually have any black characters, and therefore he can't dig himself deeper then the casual, repeated use of the offensive "nigger"can take him. I mean this book was published in the 1930s.
One way that Wodehouse maintains relevance is his light, airy style which presages the internet style of bloggers and websites. It is not a far leap, stylistically, from Wodehouse to slang heavy language of the net, and his obsessions with light subjects similarly echoes the cats and kardashians net world.