The long-awaited study of Waugh’s life and work by Ann Pasternak Slater was published earlier this month in the UK. Dr Pasternak Slater is Senior Research Fellow at St Anne’s College, Oxford. She is well known to Waugh Society members and is one of the speakers scheduled to appear at next year’s conference at the Huntington Library. Her book is entitled Evelyn Waugh (Writers and their Work). The publishers, Northcote House, describe the book as a study that
… shows how Waugh transformed his own experiences into painfully comic, brilliantly constructed novels. They are works, in his own words, of ‘elegance and variety of contrivance’. Ann Pasternak Slater has written an ingenious and engaging study of the relationship between Waugh’s life and work, between his sharp moral vision and Dionysiac comic genius. She focuses on Waugh’s entire fictional oeuvre in a book notable for its intellectual sympathy.
The book was reviewed in this week’s Spectator magazine by Mark Amory, editor of Waugh’s collected letters and former literary editor of the Spectator. Amory describes her book and compares it to the recent biography by Philip Eade, which is reviewed in the same article:
Evelyn Waugh by Ann Pasternak Slater mainly concerns the books, their technique, and how they came from his life. Eade says the books ‘could hardly have been easier to understand’, but this turns out to be not entirely true. Slater notices every word or phrase and has spotted if it is ever repeated. She knows where Waugh had got to in writing Vile Bodies when his marriage broke up and how that affects the style. She observes that a correction by Waugh when Tony Last is asked whether he believes in God has been read as ‘I suppose no’ when it is actually ‘I suppose so’. This leads to her theme: the earlier satiric works before his conversion present a disordered world where apparent chaos is artistically controlled. ‘Scrutinise the kaleidoscope and a perfect pattern is revealed.’ Sometimes he returns to this approach — as in Put Out More Flags and The Loved One. The Catholic novels — Work Suspended, Brideshead Revisited, Helena and The Sword of Honour — have a quite different style, derived from Victorian novels, and are predominantly rational and realistic.
US publication will be in October according to amazon.com which is taking advance orders, but it is available over the internet now from amazon.co.uk.
UPDATE (29 July 2016): Amazon.com now lists the US publication for the Pasternak Slater book as December 11, 2016. See link.