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08 January, 2007

A Gay P. G. Wodehouse For Our Times

Ever heard of Joe Keenan? No? Neither had I until I bought one of his books a few days ago. It turns out he is the author of a couple of other books and the scriptwriter for the TV show ‘Frasier’ – which I have never watched.

The book is called My Lucky Star and I was drawn to the book by an endorsement on the cover by Eric Idle. “Hilarious… A gay P. G. Wodehouse for our times,” it said, and I love P. G. Wodehouse to pieces and had only just the other day been wondering why no-one writes like him anymore. So, recognising A Sign when I see one, I knew I must have this book.

Well, it’s not hilarious. (What is?) It is definitely gay – embarrassingly frank in places, if you’ll pardon my prudery. But it really is very P. G. Wodehouse-like. Even the silly plot about hard-up writers getting their break in Hollywood could have come straight from the pen of our hero.

P. G. Wodehouse, of course, was a comic genius; the kind of universally admired writer to whom other writers are unfavourably compared and who always appear in people’s top ten book lists. In fact so well-loved is he that a writer would have to be mad to try to imitate him. If the imitation fails, the hapless scribbler must live with the massed sneers of six billion devoted Wodehouse fans. If the imitation succeeds, it is almost as bad, for now six billion Wodehouse lovers are made to feel that their enjoyment is a betrayal of the man to whom they have been emotionally wedded for so many years. In short, to quote the great man himself, any imitator has about as much chance of success as “a one- armed blind man in a dark room trying to shove a pound of melted butter into a wild cat's left ear with a red-hot needle.”

Fortunately for Keenan, he doesn’t quite achieve the exquisite lightness of touch of the master and his ‘modern’ obsession with physical sex rather spoils it, but he comes close enough to impress me (and Eric Idle, of course). The book is generously sprinkled with wit from cover to cover. The writing is excellent and most of it is very clever; so clever, in fact, that I have been annoying Wifie by reading good lines out to her – something I almost never do unless it is something very special, like P. G. Wodehouse himself.

Would I read another Joe Keenan book? Well, possibly. But My Lucky Star has definitely inspired me to re-read Wodehouse!

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