Latest Ames

Failbetter.com interviews Jonathan Ames about his new novel, Wake Up, Sir!. It is an homage to Wodehouse.

How exactly did Jeeves come into your employ? That is, what inspired you to write Wake Up, Sir!? Do you have a Jeeves in your own life? If not, would you like to?

Well, several years ago, I would often find myself in dangerous spots — I frequented boîtes where a good deal of transgression would go on — and I was rather Janus-Minded when put in these situations, and out of this cleaved Janus-Mind, Jeeves was born. You see, my Super-Ego wanted to stay and my Well-Behaved Ego thought I should go. (I’m using Caps because I’m reading Evelyn Waugh’s The Loved One, and he uses a lot of Caps and I’m enjoying them, and so, like a parrot or an easily influenced person, now I’m using them.) So the Well-Behaved Ego would say: “Home, Jeeves!” It said this as if there was a Jeeves inside me that would take me home. And sometimes this inner-Jeeves would take me home, and sometimes it wouldn’t and then I might find myself in a motel in the spooky wastelands of New Jersey, behaving like Dorian Gray, but with far less class…

So out of this cry for help to some Inner-Jeeves was born the character; of course, I was and I still am a huge Wodehouse fan, and during a depression in 2000—I think it was ’00—I read a lot of Wodehouse as an attempted cure, a sort books-instead-of-Prozac approach… And so then in the book, I give the narrator, Alan Blair, this same cure, an overdose of Wodehouse, which did work for both of us. And so the Jeeves character was also born out of this massive Wodehouse absorption on my part…

I originally titled the book Home, Jeeves!, but had to change this for legal reasons, which is perfectly understandable, since it would have mislead Wodehouse fans, though that wasn’t my intention when I came up with the title; it was, as described above, a personal thing, my inner-cry for salvation on school-nights when my life was in danger. Anyway, as it is, changed title and all, I’ve been very careful to illustrate in the book that my Jeeves is not the great Jeeves as created by the great Wodehouse.


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