The Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
A coveted silver cow-creamer drops hapless gentleman of leisure Bertie Wooster into the middle of two engaged couples, an incriminating notebook, an insufferable Scottie, and blackmail - in short, a situation impossible for any brain but Jeeves' to unravel.
Bertie's troubles begin with "a sort of silver cow with a kind of blotto look on its face", which Aunt Dahlia needs for her collector husband. But when the cow-creamer is usurped and a friend's engagement threatens to unravel, Bertie springs into action. By the end of an eventful day in the country, Bertie manages to get engaged to two separate girls, join a fistfight with an aspiring dictator, and wind up on the wrong end of the law. Fortunately Jeeves is there to shimmer in and smooth everything out.
Wodehouse one-ups Chekhov's gun with a silver cow creamer and a loaded notebook - two items that both go off by the end of the day. More than once. As complex and funny as the plots are, the real pleasure in reading any Wodehouse novel is his prose. He has a silver ear for getting just the right phrase, piling up slang and classical allusion in a hilarious way that may be imitated but never bettered.
For other humorists known for being quotable and witty, start with Dorothy Parker Stories by Dorothy Parker, or James Thurber's short stories, especially "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" or "The Catbird Seat."
"I could see that, if not actually disgruntled, he was far from being gruntled" - 3
"Aunt Agatha, who eats broken bottles and wears barbed wire next to the skin." - 4
"There are moments, Jeeves, when one asks oneself, 'Do trousers matter?'"
"The mood will pass, sir."
"Prismatic is the only word for those frightful tweeds and, oddly enough, the spectacle of them had the effect of steadying my nerves. They gave me the feeling that nothing mattered."