Robert McCrum, novelist and literary journalist, has for several months been writing a weekly Guardian column naming and discussing what he considers the 100 best novels in English. He is working through the history of English novel year by year from the “beginning” (Pilgrim’s Progress) to the present day (although some years are skipped over and others have multiple selections). He has now arrived at the 1930s. His latest selection, no. 60 on the list, is Waugh’s Scoop, which was also recently named by the Daily Telegraph in an anonymous top 100 list. McCrum’s columns usually stir up a lively discussion among Guardian readers, and this one is no exception, with expressions of supporting and contrary views of the book selected. There are several votes for Handful of Dust among this week’s commenters. Most of McCrum’s own commentary addresses the journalistic targets of Waugh’s satire. This is not surprising, given McCrum’s career as a literary journalist. I feared that he might miss out my own favorite parts of the book, which are those that take place at Boot Magna. But I was gratified when I reached his conclusion:
Many of these caricatures might remind some readers of Waugh’s debt to Dickens, but Scoop remains fiercely modern. So little has really changed. The six words of “Up to a point, Lord Copper” conjure a marrow-freezing universe of corporate fear. Most famous of all, there’s the glorious parody of the “feather-footed” vole questing through the “plashy fen”, a pointed reminder of the deep sentimentality always to be found in the Street of Shame.