The Code of the Woosters
PG Wodehouse, 1938

Wacky hijinks ensue when various upper-class buffoons ramble around an aristocrat's estate trying to steal cow-creamers and/or notebooks.

Evaluation and commentary
There are some amusing bits, but ultimately there was enough in here that rubbed me the wrong way that I wound up more irked than entertained.

First off, there is narrator/protagonist Bertie Wooster. He has been described as a "fool" and a "fop," but such terms are fairly broad. The "Code" mentioned in the title is "Never let a pal down," and much of the substance of the book revolves around Bertie and his old college chums, who have names like "Stinker Pinker," assisting and/or obstructing one another in pulling off various pranks. In short, he is a fratboy. Wodehouse may have had many talents, but making me sympathize with a fratboy wasn't one of them. Yes, we are supposed to laugh at these clowns, but we're also supposed to like them, and I didn't.

Then you have Jeeves. Jeeves is Bertie's manservant. The joke, of course, which dates back into antiquity, is that the servant is much more perspicacious than the master; Bertie gets himself into one scrape after another, and then Jeeves will cough politely and say, "Sir, if I may make a suggestion," and suggest a plan that resolves everything nicely. And we are supposed to chuckle at how Bertie may be the ostensible master but Jeeves is really running the show, etc.

But I didn't chuckle — the more this happened, the angrier I got. The Code of the Woosters depends upon the reader, at some level, thinking that it's acceptable for an intelligent man to spend his life catering to the whims of the idle rich. One of the engines driving the plot is the prospect of Bertie's Uncle Tom trading Aunt Dahlia's brilliant cook for a cow-creamer (ie, a silver cow-shaped serving pot). And yes, ha ha, "cow-creamer" is funny. But the idea of trading a human being for another type of property is not funny. It's chattel slavery. I'm not saying that any household with servants automatically becomes out of bounds for comedy. But the absence of even the slightest acknowledgement that treating people as property is actually an outrage soured me on this book. As Kurt Cobain once wrote, sorry to be so anally PC but that's the way I feel.

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