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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An American Bertie Wooster and His Jeeves, 23 Dec 2004
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 124,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Wake Up, Sir!: A Novel (Hardcover)
Wake Up, Sir! will be hard for P.G. Wodehouse fans to resist. Jonathan Ames has created an American contemporary version of Wodehouse's Bertie Wooster and equipped him with his very own Jeeves.
Like Bertie, Alan Blair is a person who likes a stiff potion now and then. When under the influence, he's inclined to behave in unpredictable and embarrassing ways that he regrets the next day. But undaunted, he heads off for his next round of binging.
Having won a large settlement from an accident on a slippery sidewalk, the normally impecunious Blair is rolling in the stuff and has hired Jeeves to be his valet. The contrast between Blair and Jeeves provides much of the ground for the humor.
The story has a picaresque quality as Blair lurches from the home of his aunt and uncle in Montclair, New Jersey to visit Hasidic Jews in Sharon Springs, New York. While there, he finds that he has unexpectedly been accepted in a resident writing program in Saratoga Springs, New York and moves on after an overnight disaster involving an injudicious use of a telephone directory. More pratfalls wait there, and the story hits its stride in virtually duplicating many of Wodehouse's school stories . . . except with interesting interludes with the opposite sex and same sex couples.
If you are not a Wodehouse fan, this book will proceed slowly and in lumbering fashion. You will probably think it is a two or three stars book.
If you have not read Wodehouse, I suggest you investigate the original rather than this spoof. Any of the novels about Jeeves will do well.
That, in fact, is the main disappointment of this otherwise entertaining book. Jeeves isn't, well, really Jeeves. He's a source of solace, ice bags and sympathy . . . but he doesn't create any blindingly brilliant solutions like the original.
Right ho!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars even better than The Extra Man!, 19 Jun 2004
By 
Paola Valpreda (Évora, Portugal) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Wake Up, Sir!: A Novel (Hardcover)
You'll love Alan Blair, the «hero», and his valet Jeeves (yes, Jeeves). Alan is weak, smart, lonely, humorous, had funny theories about sexuality, Jews, life and everything. His motto is «live and don't learn» (as many of us, tough we don't admit). Wake up, Sir! is a wonderful book you can't stop reading. If you liked The Extra Man, you'll find a lot of references to, since Alan tell us he wrote The Walker (that means extra man) and there are some Louis -Henry conversations like outtakes from the superb Ames' second novel. You'll also enjoy other «inside jokes» referring to the previous books of the author. If you read them. If you didn't, I suggest you to fix it. I bet you'll end like Holden Caulfield, wanting to call Ames to ask about Alan... Maybe I should name some writers similar to Ames, but I can't really recall anyone with such a gift. This is a deep and funny (at the same time) portrait of a contemporary young man wonderfully depicted, definitely worth reading.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Easy to like, hard to love modern take on Wodehouse, 1 Jun 2014
This review is from: Wake Up, Sir! (Paperback)
"Wake Up, Sir!" does not try to hide the fact that a lot of its substance is not so much inspired by, as it is directly lifted from the "Jeeves" series, written by P.G. Wodehouse. Indeed, the existence of the gentleman's gentleman in the service of the alcoholic orphan writer fighting against his own ego is explained by an meta-like discussion between the servant and his soon to become master. It would be easy to hate this book if it was merely a translation of the Bertie and Jeeves interaction into the modern world. However, Ames has succeeded in tweaking every element of those interactions in such a way to keep the book intriguing. Bertie is no longer a foppish young gentleman, lovably unaware of this own failings or the failings of his environs, but his alter ego is a recently graduated Jewish authors named Alan Blair. Where Bertie is an unsuspecting child in the the world of adults that sometimes make use of his naivete, Alan is far to aware of everything, his Jewishness, his education, his moderate wealth, his alcoholism, his problematic relationships etc. As such, where Jeeves is often the Deus Ex Machina that saves the day in a wise angel like manner, protecting Bertie's innocence; Ames writes his Jeeves as the inner straight man for Alan. The paternal voice pointing out his foibles in a kind yet firm manner against the struggling author intrinsically wants to resist.
It is a very interesting take on the genre, if one could call it a genre, and it works well in the retooled setting where artists are the new landed class. An artists colony in Saratoga is staged as a London stately home. The problems and airs of the people are astonishingly similar. The mildly sarcastic tone in which Ames describes the adventures of the duo make that realisation all the more a joy to read.
There is however a problem with this novel due to its nature as a retelling. Although Ames has reworked characters and setting, the narrative remains mostly the same in nature. That does not need to be problem, but Ames has also given his protagonist a lot more depth of character and problematic inner life then Bertie ever had. Bertie and his friends did not need any deep Franzen-esque characterbuilding, they were meant as caricatures. All readers of the "Jeeves" stories know all the inner workings of the members of the Drones club, or Aunts, or Eligible Women due to the fact that they are Drones, Aunts and Women. Sometimes, clothing styles or hobbies will tweak those characteristics, but by and large that is sufficient. Ames has taken the same approach to the supporting characters in his book. Most of the artists Blair encounters are defined by illness or other problems. Tinkle, another writer, is almost permanently ejaculating and has sweaty palms; another is clinically depressed and has an unusual approach to remedy this. The problem is that that makes Alan Blair seem like a fully developed character acting in a vacuum. You will not get to know or even like any of the other artists in the book, or indeed Jeeves, as they are mere set pieces for the protagonist to collide with.
To my opinion, this is why the ending feels a little bit unsatisfactory. Although it is clear from the beginning that this 'Bertie' will not escape his Aunts, the final act feels like a rushed afterthought created after the author realised he hadn't created anyone meaningful besides Alan to come to a resolution of the story with. The actions of one of his fellow artists towards the end of the book are so incredible that it detracts from the structure of the book's preceding 300 pages. Alan starts in a vacuum filled with his inner ramblings, and so he shall end alone, no progress made. Where this is one of the major draws to the "Jeeves" stories, that never left the interbellum for "Wake Up, Sir!" it feels like an emanation of Tinkle's illness.

Summary: An enjoyable book with lots of moments of pure genius. The character of Jeeves is one of the most interesting creations I've read in a while due to his ambiguous nature. Ingenious adaption of "Jeeves" to this day and age. Alas, Ames his attempt to deepen 'Bertie' whilst not deepening the narrative and side-character leaves the reader unsatisfied in the end.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Quality humour, 8 Jun 2013
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This review is from: Wake Up, Sir!: A Novel (Hardcover)
Although not gripping, it's steady, quality humour throughout meant I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, but I was left wanting more (which I guess is a kind of back-handed comliment). I'll definately be looking to read more Ames.
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5.0 out of 5 stars funny, 18 Jan 2013
This review is from: Wake Up, Sir! (Kindle Edition)
Very funny sort of jeeves and wooster update where the line between fantasy and reality is blurred, Ames is a talented humour writer.
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4.0 out of 5 stars It starts slowly..., 7 Jun 2011
This review is from: Wake Up, Sir! (Paperback)
It takes almost half the book to get into the history that really matters but when it does it goes really well.

I had first watched the movie that, apparently, precedes this book (The Extra Man) and watch the TV series, Bored to Death. It looks like all the characters are build the same but at least they are interesting.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Art School Confidential, 18 July 2011
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This review is from: Wake Up, Sir! (Paperback)
Ames' gift for describing personal disaster is brilliantly employed in this hilarious tale of a mildly perverted writer's adventures in an artists colony. He is clearly a man who has mixed with those members of society who refuse to get a proper job and instead devote themsleves to artistic pursuits. Ames' intelligence is never far from the surface, giving meaning to the ongoing chaos. For example, Ames' description of how he could see himself as an American before he discovered English Literature and his cultural radar became messed up is a splendid point about what is personal identity. A great read.
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Wake Up, Sir!
Wake Up, Sir! by Jonathan Ames (Paperback - 17 Oct 2005)
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