NEWS that novelist Sebastian Faulks is to step into the stout brogues of God – sorry, PG Wodehouse; I always get these two mixed up – has been greeted with a mixture of incredulity, distaste and applause.
The reason it's easy to confuse Wodehouse with God is that both created gardens of Eden, though the former's is at least verifiable. Wodehouse, creator of Jeeves, Wooster and the Earl of Blandings, was a one-off. So, how to create two of him?
Of all institutions, the estate of PG Wodehouse has asked Faulks to become that very clone. This is an interesting departure from the usual protective practice of literary estates. The Tolkien estate, to take the most notorious example, polices potential copyists with an iron writ.
But the Wodehouse crowd bung buns at the very idea – commendably, I'd say, if the aim is to add, as PG did immeasurably, to the sum of human happiness. And if it should fail?
To be fair, the estate hasn't declared open season. Carefully, it has selected Faulks, an established and admired writer who has already penned a James Bond novel. Faulks loves Wodehouse, as all right-thinking citizens do. But how to get tone, pace and plot right? How to get warmth and sunlight into the text the way that Wodehouse did?
The Spectator's Alex Massie has dismissed the project as "madness", and I'm inclined to agree. How could anyone bring this off? Parrot the original and you get parody (or parroty). Depart from it too much and you'll be given the bird.
Still, I applaud the courage of both Faulks and the estate. Imagine, if you will, the critical and suspicious Wodehouse lover as one of Wooster's fearsome aunts. Then recall Bertie's advice: "[In] this life it is not aunts that matter, but the courage that one brings to them -"
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