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Wake Up, Sir!by Jonathan Ames
Synopses & Reviews
What kind of book has Jonathan Ames written this time? Well, think of Cervantes' Don Quixote, except that Wake Up, Sir! is not as good. But that's all right — no book is as good as Don Quixote. You might also think of A Confederacy of Dunces, but there again Ames's book falls short. I think, though, we might be pushing this humility business too far.
So how else might we describe this brilliant, comedic, and literary novel? How about brilliant and comedic and literary, which we just used. One could also apply such adjectives as: exuberant, zany, and sexy. God forbid we should give you four adjectives in a row, but you know how it is: The Rule of Three Adjectives!
In fairness, I should say that the last adjective mentioned is somewhat misleading. But there is one rather long sex scene in the book, worthy of placement in Krafft-Ebing's Psychopathia Sexualis, so it's not entirely misleading.
I imagine that it's about time we gave you a plot summary, without giving too much away, which is never an easy task:
Alan Blair is a young, loony writer with numerous problems of the mental, emotional, sexual, spiritual, and physical variety. He's very good at problems. He's also quite skilled at getting into trouble. But luckily for Alan, he has a personal valet, a wondrously helpful fellow named Jeeves, who does his best to sort things out for his young master.
Our tale begins in Montclair, New Jersey, where Alan gets into a scrape with his uncle Irwin, a gun-toting member of the NRA. So Alan and Jeeves flee New Jersey and take refuge at a Hasidic enclave in Sharon Springs, New York. Unfortunately, more trouble ensues — involving a woman! — so Alan and Jeeves again take flight, this time landing at a famous artist colony in Saratoga Springs, New York. There Alan encounters a gorgeous femme fatale who is in possession of the most spectacular nose in the history of noses. Such a nose can only lead to a wild disaster for someone like Alan, and Jeeves tries to help him, but...
"Ames's (My Less Than Secret Life) latest over-the-top offering concerns a week in the life of Alan Blair, a 30-something novelist and booze hound coasting along thanks to a fall on the ice that netted him a hefty lawsuit payout. Said quarter-million means that Alan can avoid employment and hire a valet named Jeeves, who inhabits the spare bedroom in the modest Montclair, N.J., home of Alan's uncle and aunt ('the old flesh and blood'). After Alan refuses to go back to rehab, Aunt Florence and Uncle Irwin have no choice but to oust him, so Alan and Jeeves hit the road, heading for an artists' colony in Saratoga Springs where 'careworn' Alan might finish his second novel, a roman à clef based on an elderly playwright he'd roomed with in Manhattan years ago. Varied ruminations on human sexuality (mostly Alan's obsession with homosexuality) and the nature of men's room wall graffiti follow. One night, looking for a good time, a very drunk Alan calls a number scribbled in a gas station phone book and gets mightily punished for it, but he arrives at the Rose Colony in one piece. Surrounded by the nutty residents at the picturesque retreat ("'It's glorious, Jeeves,' I said. 'Like Brideshead.'") Alan tries to write, but excessive drinking and passionate lovemaking to sculptor Ava steals his time away. An accusation of theft and a bout with pubic lice complicate matters, but good-natured Jeeves escapes unscathed with his reliable retort: 'Very good, sir.' Ames's tale zips along, brimming with comedy and wild details, proving him to be a winning storyteller and a consummate, albeit exceedingly eccentric, entertainer. Agent, Rosalie Siegel. (July) Forecast: There's a whole host of folks out there wishing P.G. Wodehouse had written a few more Jeeves novels; no doubt they'll snap up this zany homage. With a nine-city tour and an appearance on Late Night with David Letterman (Ames is a regular guest) scheduled for the month of publication, this book should be Ames's biggest yet." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"A demented picaresque....Pungent and hilarious, if completely off the deep end: Ames is like a perpetual undergraduate jokester, whom you either love or hate on first sight." Kirkus Reviews
"Ames can produce a pretty good facsimile of Wodehousean badinage, some of it sharpened to a 21st-century edge. You'll find plenty more such quipping in the book, along with graphic sex, ludicrous mishaps and even a few literary judgments." Dennis Drabelle, The Washington Post Book World
"Ames's inventive romp follows its hero into very un-Wodehousian territory....But Jeeves remains faithful throughout; no amount of bad behavior can wring from him a sterner rejoinder than 'Very strange, sir.'" The New Yorker
"Ames's fourth novel strings readers along in a madcap adventure complete with a lively and varied set of characters. There is something for everyone here." Library Journal
"The story line is really a vehicle for Ames' hilarious riffs, spasms of universal recognition, moments of psychological immolation and numerous flights of disastrous fancy." D.K. Row, The Oregonian (Portland, OR)
"Ames's book pits the self-lacerating gush of alcoholism-in-transition against the cool detachment of the English hospitality industry; Wake Up, Sir! is a Wodehouse novel for the recovery era." Henry Alford, The New York Times
"Wake Up, Sir! has the broad outline of a classic Wodehouse farce....But Wodehousean as Ames' plot and language may be, the book has a dark side that its model never approached." Polly Shulman, Newsday
"Wake Up, Sir! takes on the big themes — the homosexual question, the Jewish question, the great American novel question, and more — in this witty, wild romp about a somewhat disturbed young writer. Comic and incredibly accurate: if anyone ever wanted to know what a writer has to endure in order to produce, Jonathan Ames has made it perfectly clear. Wake Up, Sir! is bound to delight." A. M. Homes, author of Music for Torching
"A hilarious journey into one man's labyrinthine neuroses, with day trips to compulsion and delusion. The perfect gift for anyone who has ever imagined having a manservant." Colson Whitehead, author of John Henry Days
"Very funny and altogether elegant, this tale of an endearing drunk and his unflappable manservant is a love story of sorts, but with an American twist. Here, a valet is just a friend one pays." Sarah Vowell, author of The Partly Cloudy Patriot
From the author of the much-loved The Extra Man comes a witty, poignant, and subversive homage to the Jeeves novels of P.G. Wodehouse — the story of a young alcoholic writer and his personal valet, who happens to be named Jeeves.
About the Author
Jonathan Ames is the author of I Pass Like Night, The Extra Man, What's Not to Love?, and My Less Than Secret Life. He is the winner of a Guggenheim Fellowship for prose fiction, but as a boxer he is a loser — he had a singularly unsuccessful amateur career (0-1), fighting as "The Herring Wonder." Mr. Ames contributes frequently to Public Radio International's The Next Big Thing and has been on Late Show with David Letterman more than once, which is nothing to sneeze at. Feel free to visit, especially since it's free, his mildly amusing website: www.jonathanames.com.
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