Trouble at Willow Gables
Ian Smith [+]
Writer, Broadcaster and Musician
Around the time of Larkin’s university years he developed the alter ego “Brunette Coleman”, under which name he wrote two novellas, an autobiography and a parodic literary manifesto. The writing and the persona clearly indicate a playful treatment of “identity issues”. And the generic form of the novellas, mixing the pastiche of schoolgirl fiction and soft porn, also speaks of Larkin’s literary impulses to write both with cerebral knowingness and visceral appeal. The Brunette Coleman stories also link sexuality and jazz: in one of the novellas the girls discover a stash of illicit jazz records, and when listening to the records they find themselves roused to sexual frenzy. This chapter will acknowledge that the Brunette Coleman material is a fanciful and recreational body of Larkin’s work. But it will also trace ways in which his writing weaves jazz with self-parody, confession, fantasy, social satire and creative joy.