Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Kit Marlowe: My Inspiration, P. G. Wodehouse

One of the key influences on my Jazz Age novella The Big Splash was the writer P. G. Wodehouse (pronounced "wood-house"). The name isn't as well know today as it was in his hey day, but I bet many of you will recognize the names Jeeves & Wooster. They serve as the inspiration for my Constance and Collier. Wodehouse wrote 96 books in his 94 years, plus a lot of journalism and a bunch of Broadway musicals. People as varied as Evelyn Waugh, Stephen Fry, Douglas Adams, Zadie Smith and Christopher Hitchens count him as the model of comic writing.

Undoubtledly most people's favourites among his characters are the hapless but eternally cheerful Bertie Wooster and his reserved though incomparably adept "gentleman's gentleman" Jeeves. Bertie's always getting into scrapes, as are most of his mates.  Jeeves sorts them all out with much application of his astute observation, encyclopedic knowledge and savvy judgment of character. While occasionally the two have disagreements -- usually in the realm of divided opinions about straw boaters and white dinner jackets -- they both know they've got the best of all situations. Of course that doesn't stop Bertie from thinking he might know better than Jeeves this time, inevitably the latter will come to his rescue in some inventive way, leaving Bertie marveling yet again at his astounding good fortune.

Kit's portrait by SL Johnson
Ironically, the most common scrape Bertie gets into is getting engaged to some woman, which would put an end to the freewheeling bachelor's days of indulgence -- and surely curtail Jeeves' control of the home. Of course I flipped that around for my story. Collier's reputation is that she seems to always find a husband for her charges. The flighty Constance Wynn Hare, who can't get her favourite guy to propose, finds that after just one day with Collier she's got two proposals -- what to do now?

Amusingly enough, Wodehouse created a romance novelist named Rosie M. Banks. The men find her rather frightening -- after all, she'd dedicated to promoting romantic notions that they feel anxious about living up to in reality -- but she ends up married to Bertie's pal Bingo. I hope I'm a worthy successor to both Wodehouse and his fictional creations. I gave The Big Splash the same madcap air and filled with the glittering party-goers of wealth and fashion. I sure had a lot of fun writing it! If you want to find out more about Jeeves and Wooster and Wodehouse, I highly recommend the series Jeeves & Wooster which stars Stephen Fry and Hugh ("House") Laurie.

What writer makes you laugh?

-- Kit Marlowe


AllureVanSanz said...

Hiya Kit!

Joss Whedon is the writer that I adore the most. Not an avid "Buffy" fan at first, after catching an episode when nothing else was on, I became hooked solely based on the writing genius and the fact someone wrote how I talked. Most of my stories are dialogue driven, so I'm thinking that's a big part of the reason my favorite writer is a screenplay author...and comic book author.

Your book sounds like a great read. I hope your sales soar!

All my best,

H.C. Brown said...

Hi Kit, sorry I pushed in over your post. Great post, your book sounds great.


Todd Mason said...

You can add Isaac Asimov to your range of admirers (and occasional emulators) of Wodehouse...his better humorous work is very much in the Wodehousian mode.

The writers who make me laugh range from Avram Davidson, the crazed scholar, whom very few others could touch when he was at his best..Saul Bellow on a rare occasion, Guy Davenport a bit, Jorge Luis Borges at his most antic. The children of Swift such as Karel Capek, Kafka, Fritz Leiber, Joanna Russ, Damon Knight, Kurt Vonnegut, Carol Emshwiller, Thomas Disch, Evelyn Waugh. The school Wodehouse swam in with: E. F. Benson, Saki, Thorne Smith on our side of the water. Robert Benchley and Jean Kerr and Ben Hecht. Mrs. Parker.

Maybe a few hundred others

Kit Marlowe said...

Hi Allure -- I love Buffy and Firefly a lot. Whedon when he's on is a whole lot of fun.

HC -- I'm a middle child, so I've always had to share. Nothing changes, I guess.

Todd -- I have to agree with most of the folks you name (save for Saul Bellow) and I haven't read Avram Davidson and really ought to remedy that, though I've got a big stack of other neglected writers to catch up on, courtesy of a kind friend.

Todd Mason said...

Bellow is too often like a dour (and smug and not terribly pro-woman) Davidson. Very rarely does he crack a full smile. Infrequently, though, he can be funny.

I was first thoroughly introduced to Wodehouse by the earlier BBC sitcom anthology, WODEHOUSE PLAYHOUSE (and also enjoyed the companion series anchored by the same married couple, the [un-PGW] NO HONESTLY), though I'd read a scrap or two in anthologies beforehand.

Then there were the comics! Particularly PEANUTS, POGO, DOONESBURY, Jules Feiffer's SICK, SICK, SICK...

K. A. Laity said...

Guess what's sitting in one of the chairs in my office? Sick, Sick, Sick! Peanuts, Pogo, Doonesbury, yep. Calvin & Hobbes, The Far Side, Zippy, Sylvia.

Pauline Collins and John Alderton -- I loved Wodehouse Playhouse. My brother and I watched it every week. I think that was my first introduction to PG as well. I remember No, Honestly but much more vaguely.

Vonnegut for sure: Dorothy Parker is another idol of mine. Sad life, but some very funny -- and some painfully sad, like "Big Blonde" and "A Telephone Call" which were based on more person experiences.

Kit Marlowe said...

Oops, so much for a secret identity! LOL, not that it's all that "secret" anyway.

-- Kate

K. A. Laity said...

Obviously "personal" there -- and I forgot to chime in about Waugh, too, who's also been a huge influence on me. Barbary Pym and Georgette Heyer and of course Austen, too, who doesn't get enough credit for how funny she is, perhaps most of all in Sense and Sensibility and Northanger Abbey.

Margie Church said...

Erma Bombeck of course. I always aspired to be her and maybe one day I will.

Kit Marlowe said...

I used LOVE reading her in the paper everyday when I was a kid. I think after I grew up and moved away I never had a paper that carried her, but she was certainly entertaining. That's a great aspiration, Margie :-)

Sarah Ballance said...

I'm sitting here trying to figure out who makes me laugh and all I can come up with is a list of comedians and sitcoms. I might need to expand my horizons, lol. I thoroughly enjoyed this post and learned quite a few new names. Fabulous!