Joey Cooley is a golden-curled child film star, the idol of American motherhood. Reginald, Third Earl of Havershot, is a boxing blue on a mission to save his wayward cousin from the fleshpots of Hollywood. Both are under anesthetic at the dentists when something strange happens - and their identities are swapped. Suddenly Joey can use his six-foot frame to get his own back on his Hollywood persecutors. But Reggie has to endure everything Joey had to put up with in the horrible life of a child star - including kidnapping.
Public Domain ©2002 The Trustees of the Wodehouse Estate (P)2012 AudioGO
St. Louis, Missouri
Though there's plenty of "inhaling" at various bars, clubs and pubs throughout the Wodehouse canon, this is the only story I know of that involves an actual out-of-body (or, to be completely accurate, out-of-two-bodies) experience.
Due to this unique plot twist, it's also the only Wodehouse story I know of where we are treated to life from a child's perspective. Again, to be completely accurate it's life seen through the eyes of an adult who happens at the time to be inhabiting a child's body. Nevertheless, this adult has to deal with all the vicissitudes of youth--from bedtimes to bullies. Add the fact that this kid also happens to be a Hollywood child star, with all the dietary obligations that entails, and you can see that our hero has his hands full.
This was the first Wodehouse I ever read, given to me by my hall RA in college. Of course, like a chump I put off reading it for five or six years but when I did it came as rare and refreshing fruit.
Best line: When a temperance reformer hauls up her slacks about the "lake of alcohol" in America, the hero's cousin, a confirmed inebriate, lights up: "You mean...we can just go there and lap?"
Best situation: Confronted by a ten year old boy in ringlets and a flat Ohio accent who claims to be related to him by ties of blood, this cousin runs the other way--either to the nearest bar or temple of temperance. In a town built on illusions, it's hard to convince someone that something genuinely amazing has happened.
Meanwhile, everyone--and I mean everyone, from cops to kidnappers--is angling for a part in the next celluloid epic.
My only squawk is the way man and boy return to their own bodies--disappointing after the completely plausible (or at least plausible-for-Wodehouse-in-Hollywood) way they got switched in the first place. Nevertheless, a delightful romp.
Why? It contains all the Elements essential to a good PGW tale, BUT he threw in the impossible scenario. While all the others are a stretch of the imagination, Laughing Gas's 4th or 5th Dimension switch is fantasy, yet PGW wove it so masterfully into a believable story, that even the ending was a smooth transition back to reality. My fav words? " the idol of American motherhood."
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