Jonathan Ames, the writer who is the creator of HBO’s Bored to Death and the real person Jason Schwartzman’s character is the projection of, wrote a novel about an alcoholic writer who hires PG Wodehouse’s Jeeves as his valet. Odd thing is no one but the writer ever sees Jeeves. The novel’s called Wake Up, Sir! There’s not much of a plot. The writer lurches from mix-up to mix-up, counting on Jeeves’ help and advice to straighten things out only to find that Jeeves never shimmers in in the nick of time to save the day the way he does for Bertie Wooster.
The writer becomes involved with a woman with whom he is, as Jeeves often advised Bertie about the likes of Lady Florence Cray, Honoria Glossop, Madeline Bassett, and Bobbie Wickham, temperamentally unsuited. But unlike Bertie, the writer’s entanglement with this said unsuitable female does not get him into trouble by landing him in jail, or in the clutches of the unspeakable bully Spode, or sending him fleeing the country to escape yet another scolding from his Aunt Agatha. The writer gets into trouble by getting into her bed and getting her into his.
The result, as it concerned me as a reader, wasn’t high hilarity as much as it was a mixture of arousal and embarrassment, as if Ames, had somehow found out about a cherished erotic episode in my life and used it in his novel in a way that was not flattering to my opinion of myself as a man and a lover. It was pretty much like learning that a former girlfriend hadn’t had quite as much fun in my company as I thought.
Except I had never dated a girl like the girl the writer makes a fool of himself over in Wake Up, Sir!
I had never had a relationship that was in similar.
For the simple reason that at the time in my life when I was a young writerly type whose circle of acquaintances included any number of girls like the one in the novel---hyper-intelligent, creative, sexually aggressive, extremely neurotic---I made a point of steering well clear of them.
Which didn’t mean I wasn’t attracted to them. I was. Strongly. I just had a feeling. Kind of like the feeling that has kept me from bungee-jumping, rock climbing, and visiting war zones as a reporter. The thrills that I know I would enjoy come with too many risks and attendant pain.
But I always wondered what it would have been like if I’d been braver, or dumber, particularly with one girl, a dancer and composer who was probably a genius but who could never put her genius to work for herself because as soon as she began to get her intellectual engines revved up she started hearing her mother shouting over the roar about what a disappointment she was as a daughter.
I would have gone to bed with this girl in a heartbeat if I didn’t suspect it meant also going to bed with her mother. What are those messages from home Mrs Weasley sends to Ron at Hogwarts? Howlers? This girl received howlers every hour on the hour.
Still, she was nice and she was interested and she was a dancer, so I always wondered…until I read Wake Up, Sir! Then I knew, because Jonathan Ames knew and he’d written it down for me.
It would have been very sexy, and terrifying, and exhausting, and constantly and finally humiliating.
In the video below Ames talks about how sex scenes in his writing are opportunities for character development. He describes sex as “this little theater where all sorts of issues and problems can express themselves.” That’s what an affair with her would have been, a constant drama of issues and problems.
It might also have been funny. In hindsight.
You can watch the whole interview or read the transcript at Big Think.
PS. I’m still hoping someone out there has recorded the whole season of Bored to Death and won’t mind burning me a copy.