Humoristen P.G. Wodehouse er uten tvil en av de 10-15 forfatterne jeg har lest mest størst glede hittil i livet. Han var en eminent teknikker, og her er utdrag fra et intervju han ga til Gerald Clarke i 1975, der han snakker om hvordan han arbeider og hvilke råd han vil gi til andre skribenter. Intervjuet ble publisert i The Paris Review. Wodehouse var 91. Han døde senere dette året.
Intervjuet er på engelsk. For de av dere som synes det blir anstrengende lesning: Scroll (!) helt til bunns, der er det en norsk avslutning.
What is your working schedule like these days?
I still start the day off at seven-thirty. I do my daily dozen exercises, have breakfast, and then go into my study. When I am between books, as I am now, I sit in an armchair and think and make notes. Before I start a book I've usually got four hundred pages of notes. Most of them are almost incoherent. But there's always a moment when you feel you've got a novel started. You can more or less see how it's going to work out. After that it's just a question of detail.
You block everything out in advance, then?
Yes. For a humorous novel you've got to have a scenario, and you've got to test it so that you know where the comedy comes in, where the situations come in...splitting it up into scenes (you can make a scene of almost anything) and have as little stuff in between as possible.
Is it really possible to know in a scenario where something funny is going to be?
Yes, you can still do that. Still, it's curious how a scenario gets lost as you go along. I don't think I've ever actually kept completely to one. If I've got a plot for a novel worked out and I can really get going on it, I work all the time. I work in the morning, and then I probably go for a walk or something, and then I have another go at the novel. I find that from four to seven is a particularly good time for working. I never work after dinner. It's the plots that I find so hard to work out. It takes such a long time to work one out. I like to think of some scene, it doesn't matter how crazy, and work backward and forward from it until eventually it becomes quite plausible and fits neatly into the story.
How many words do you usually turn out a on a good day?
Well, I've slowed up a good deal now. I used to write about two thousand words. Now I suppose I do about one thousand.
And do you work seven days a week?
Oh yes, rather. Always.
Do you go back and revise very much?
Yes. And I very often find that I've got something which ought to come in another place, a scene which originally I put in chapter two and then when I get to chapter ten, I feel it would come in much better there. I'm sort of molding the whole time.
How long does it take you to write a novel?
Well, in the old days I used to rely on it being about three months, but now it might take any length of time. I forget exactly how long Bachelors Anonymous (hans på dette tidspunktet nyeste. kjetil.) took, but it must have been six or seven months.
Wodehouse "in the old days".
If you were asked to give advice to somebody who wanted to write humorous fiction, what would you tell him?
I'd give him practical advice, and that is always get to the dialogue as soon as possible. I always feel the thing to go for is speed. Nothing puts the reader off more than a great slab of prose at the start. I think the success of every novel - if it's a novel of action - depends on the high spots. The thing to do is to say to yourself, "What are my big scenes?" and then get every drop of juice out of them. The principle I always go on in writing a novel is to think of the characters in terms of actors in a play. I say to myself, if a big name were playing this part, and if he found that after a strong first act he had practically nothing to do in the second act, he would walk out. Now, then, can I twist the story so as to give him plenty to do all the way through? I believe the only way a writer can keep himself up to the mark is by examining each story quite coldly before he starts writing it and asking himself it is all right as a story. I mean, once you go saying to yourself, "This is a pretty weak plot as it stands, but if I'm such a hell of a writer that my magic touch will make it okay," you're sunk. If they aren't in interesting situations, characters can't be major characters, not even if you have the rest of the troop talk their heads off about them.
What do you think makes a story funny?
I think character mostly. You know instinctively what's funny and what isn't if you're a humorous writer. I don't think a man can deliberately sit down to write a funny story unless he has got a sort of slant on life that leads to funny stories. If you take life fairly easily, then you take a humorous view of things. It's probably because you were born that way. Lord Emsworth and his pig - I know they're funny.
Du kan lese mer av intervjuet her: http://www.abebooks.com/docs/RareBooks/pg-wodehouse.shtml
Bertie og hans trofaste Jeeves.
For de som ikke har stiftet bekjentskap med Wodehouse og hans persongalleri, her er en ørliten smakebit på stilen:
"Jeg satt i mitt badekar, såpet inn min venstre fot med tenksom mine og sang - om jeg ikke tar aldeles feil - Old Man River.
Jeg vil føre mitt publikum slemt bak lyset om jeg påstod at Wooster-jeget svevet på lyserøde skyer, billedlig talt. Aftenen som lå foran meg, tegnet til å bli en aften av den tryble sorten som ikke bringer noe godt i sitt skjød fra mennesker eller dyr."
Dette er åpningen på Jeg stoler på Jeeves! (Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit). Glitrende oversatt av Axel Seeberg, som allerede i åpningen slår til med ordet tryble. Jeg har ikke lest denne på engelsk, så jeg vet ikke hva han oversatte fra her, men godt gjort er det okke som.
Jeg kjenner mange ellers oppegående mennesker som ikke liker Wodehouse. Og jeg skjønner det ikke. Det er et av livets store mysterier. Det kan i den forbindelsen være på sin plass å nevne at Wodehouse har (hadde) mange fans blant mer alvorstunge skribenter: Kipling, Orwell og Rushdie, for eksempel.
Jeg stoler på Jeeves! er en av de beste Bertie Wooster/Jeeves historiene. Den starter - slik de flest starter - med at Bertie nyter sitt ørkesløse ungkarsliv til fulle, men har en snikende mistanke om at et nært forestående besøk av en slektning/venn vil bringe med seg problemer.
Hvilket det selvfølgelig gjør. Hver gang. Bertie satser så på å løse problemene selv, men det går galt. Hver gang. Og Jeeves må redde dagen. Også det hver gang.
Wodehouse er deilig forutsigbar. Men han er også en av de ytterst få som kan overraske meg så mye at jeg begynner å gapskratte - høyt og offentlig - over en replikk eller et snedig ordvalg.
Til slutt en morsom Wodehouse-link:
En Wodehouse Random Quote Generator, med bl.a. herlige tåpeligheter som denne: " He spoke with a certain what-is-it in his voice, and I could see that, if not actually disgruntled, he was far from being gruntled."
Silver Foxes, Erotica, & More!
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