Literature has always been cannibalistic and up its own armpit (Helen Fielding up the armpit of Jane Austen, Jane Austen up the armpit of Fanny Burney, Fanny Burney up the armpit of Samuel Richardson, and so on). But recently the novel has become even more ravenously anthropophagous than usual. Joanna Trollope has ‘reimagined’ Sense and Sensibility, there’s a ‘reboot’ of the Poirot series, and there are the two books under review here.
Lovers of Radio 4’s The Write Stuff will know Sebastian Faulks and his opponent, John Walsh, as the cleverest literary pasticheurs going. Faulks’s Bertie Wooster item is brilliant. He catches the Wodehousean idiom, periphrasis, surreal similes and bally silliness to a T, all done with love. Any page, taken on the ‘sortes Woosterianae’ principle, will demonstrate the accuracy of Faulk’s mimicry. Here is Bertie’s first impression of Melbury Hall, for example, where the plot to come will be played out:
I am something of a connoisseur of the country pile and I must say old Sir Henry had done himself remarkably well. At a guess I would say it was from