Monday, March 23, 2009

Oh, I Say, What?

One of our favorite diversions in our household is the all-but-lost art of reading aloud. Typically, this takes the form of my reading aloud to the Troll while he does some work around the cave. Since I'm better at reading than I am at fixing things and he's the other way round, this seems to work out pretty well for all parties.

Anyway, recently I was reading to him from the chronicles of Jeeves and Wooster, by P.G. Wodehouse. If you're not familiar with these stories, they're a series of lighthearted confections dating from the 1920s about a bumbling British gentleman, Bertie Wooster, and his supremely competent manservant, Jeeves, who not only keeps Bertie impeccably dressed but also exerts his considerable brainpower to extricate his young master, and his young master's equally bumbling friends, from a variety of scrapes. What makes the series so particularly charming is the way the characters talk. Bertie is always saying things like "Hallo, hallo, hallo, what?" while Jeeves's lines are more along the lines of "I endeavor to give satisfaction, sir," and the distinctive speaking styles of these two characters are sort of a hallmark of the stories.

Anyway, after reading a few of these, it occurred to me to wonder if anyone had ever written any Jeeves/Wooster slash fiction. After all, both characters do seem to be more or less confirmed bachelors, and in fact, one of Jeeves's most common challenges is helping Bertie escape from unwanted marriage engagements. However, I was inclined to dismiss the thought almost as soon as it popped up, because the idea of writing anything remotely smutty in the voice of either of these characters seemed inconceivable.

Not, it would appear, to all. A quick Google search turned up several hits, including one particular site that listed and provided summary reviews of several J/W stories. So I read a few, and I must say, the mind boggles. One problem with writing this sort of thing, as the author of the site pointed out, is maintaining the proper voice. As she put it, "How can you put these two into an awkward, sweaty, and not ironic position without losing the style? You don’t just say “his hard length” unless you can make it sound good in Bertie’s or Jeeves’s voice." And I must admit, it's not the sort of thing either of them really seems likely to say.

Even more than the style, though, the problem seems to lie in the characters themselves. It's all but inconceivable to imagine these characters having sex, not just with each other, but really, with anyone at all. Bertie isn't too absurd, I suppose; though clueless, he's thoroughly good-hearted, and it isn't impossible to imagine him showing a fair degree of enthusiasm once someone managed to explain the whole concept to him in terms he could understand. But it's nearly impossible to imagine Jeeves being swept away by passion under any circumstances. One of his most salient character traits, in fact, seems to be his imperturbability--that and his utter competence at dealing with any situation. So of course, there's every reason to think he would be extremely competent between the sheets as well--but that alone just doesn't make for terribly interesting reading, don't you know, what?

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