Thursday 6 June 2013

'... pick a murderer as a cellmate': Tom Sharpe

The comic novelist Tom Sharpe has died, at the ripe age of 85. I don't know what I'd make of any of his books now, but his early novels - from Riotous Assembly through to the first Wilt - gave me much pleasure back in the Seventies. To find a comic novel - outside the Wodehouse canon - that actually makes you laugh is rare enough, and Sharpe's speciality, farce, is notoriously difficult to pull off, even on stage, let alone in a novel. For a while, Sharpe seemed to manage it - especially well in the Cambridge-set Porterhouse Blue - but in later works he lost too much of the iron control that is needed to keep farcical comedy funny. Still, for the reading pleasure he gave me back in his heyday, I remain grateful - as, I'm sure, do many many others. And Sharpe seems to have come close to his ambition of dying, like a true professional, at his typewriter. His autobiography, if enough of it has been written, should be quite a read. RIP.