4
Mar 05

Blue Heaven by Joe Keenan

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 333 views

I was recommended this by Luna of ILX, and when I started reading I feared it was going to be unbearable: right from the start, the very first sentence, the fact that he is trying to write as exactly like Wodehouse as he can is very overt. This is a modern version of Wodehouse, and he is smart enough to realise that the fashionable men about town of the Drones translates beautifully to gay men in NYC. Making our narrator a writer of musical comedies who gets given a Wodehouse book as a present leaves you in no doubt that Keenan isn’t trying to hide the debt, but he hardly could, what with parties at country houses, marital confusions, Mummy the duchess coming to visit and idiots scheming to get cash out of tight-fisted parents.

It’s a hell of a move to risk: I regard Wodehouse as one of the greatest English prose stylists ever, one of my absolute favourites, and the funniest writer ever. You need anexceptionally light touch, you need the imagination and wit to create fresh and funny similes, you need a plot that is frothy and lively. You need to overcome the obvious fundamental lack of originality. There aren’t many people who would avoid falling flat on their faces, by clumsiness or leadenness or lack of wit. That’s why I feared the worst.

Keenan pulls it off. There was hardly a false note in the whole book, and the updated aspects (like people actually having sex, for instance) were seamlessly integrated. The prose is easy and weightless, and he actually manages to do frequent Wodehouse-style similes without fucking it up, and he made me laugh a bunch of times (I only spotted one that I am sure he pinched from PGW). The plot gets very complicated at times, but he keeps pulling just the right rabbits out of his hat, and sorts it all out really well in the end without much crowbar needed. This is a tremendous success, to my surprise, and I enjoyed it hugely.

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