Books ó Wake Up, Sir!

Sex, drunks and a modern-day Jeeves

By Nate Graziano []  

Wake Up, Sir!, by Jonathan Ames, Scribner, 2004, 334 pages.

In his recent novel Wake up, Sir!, Jonathan Ames, a former columnist for the New York Press and infrequent guest on Late Show With David Letterman, takes us on a riotous romp spanning a week in the life of an incorrigibly alcoholic young writer and his valet. Alan Blair and Jeeves (a character in the tradition of P.G. Wodehouse) travel from the suburbs of Montclair, New Jersey, to an artistsí colony in Saratoga Springs, New York, running across a bevy of neurotics, deviants, drunks, and laugh-out loud lunatic artists along the way. 

When we are introduced to Blair, a 30-year-old novelist with a penchant for fine clothes, he is living with his aunt and uncle in Montclair after a substantial lawsuit settlement allowed him the financial liberty to hire a valet and work exclusively on his second novel, which has been a seven-year work-in-progress. However, Blairís nightly clandestine dates with wine bottles has prohibited the writing process, and once his aunt and uncle learn about his drinking they give him the choice of going to rehab or moving out. Blair chooses the latter, thus setting the stage for a series of hysterical misadventures with his trusty and loyal valet, Jeeves.

After having his nose broken by the belligerent boyfriend of a woman Blair drunkenly calls, whose number he finds in the margins of a phonebook beside a salacious invitation, the pair sets off for the Rose Colony in Saratoga Springs, an exclusive artistsí resort where Blair learns he has been accepted. Despite his plans to sober up and finish his book, his drinking spins out of control after heís accused of stealing a pair of slippers from a female painter. While trying to court a sultry, voluptuous sculptress and comporting with fellow bibulous madmen of letters, Blair becomes a whirlwind of drunkenness and mayhem ensues.

Aside from his dipsomania, nose fetishes, and countless other quirky afflictions, Blairís first-person narration manages to endear the reader with poignant insights into the absurdities of everyday life, an affable sense self-deprecation, and an often uncomfortable (for some readers) candor. Amesí prose is clear and coherent, and in its best moments as eloquent as Blairís seersucker suit coat. 

However, Wake Up, Sir! is not a slapstick comedy. Although the laughs are plentifulóespecially for those with scatological taste budsóthe plot is tightly and cleverly crafted.  And in the end, Ames leaves us with a rather warm tale of male friendship. Huck and Jim, Alan and Jeeves are not; however, on their merits they manage to be exceptional.

Wake Up, Sir!, Amesí third novel, is an enchanting read with some side-stitching laughs that clearly displays why Jonathan Ames is considered one the finest humorists of our time.  

- Nate Graziano

2004 HippoPress LLC | Manchester, NH