Black Mischief on Surfer List

Evelyn Waugh’s 1932 novel Black Mischief is included on a list of recommended books that every surfer should read. This is on the surfing weblog and is compiled by Chas Smith:

Black Mischief by Evelyn Waugh is the most awesome piece of racism that you’ll ever read. I love it so much. Racism is, anyhow, a social construct that is almost always funny. Even when people really mean it, it’s funny. I know, I know, it’s easy for me to say since I’m white. But Waugh elevates the idea of national building in Africa to such ridiculous heights. It’s the sort of old-timey aristocratic remove that today’s social liberal would cry about. Waugh doesn’t take himself seriously either. The well-bred Englishman star of the show is absurd. Awesome. I can’t talk about it anymore. You should go and buy a copy right now.

Other books on the list (which totals only 6 in apparent recognition that surfers are not voracious readers) include Norman Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead (“long, rambling and shot through with radiance” and G K Chesterton’s The Man Who was Thursday (“…Robert Hanssen, the FBI agent who sold tons of secrets to the USSR used to give the book to his friends. Good enough for me.”).

Another West Coast reference to Waugh’s work surfaces (if you will excuse the expression) in a detailed and thoughtful review of the recent biography of Waugh’s contemporary Kenneth Clark by James Stourton in the Los Angeles Review of Books. This is by Kevin McMahon who comments on the high bar set for any biography of important figure of Clark’s generation:

…books about interwar Britain always run the risk of becoming anthologies of aristocratic howlers. The task of the biographer wading into this terrain consists largely of scaling the Himalayan mountain range of memoirs, diaries, and letters of interwar literati like Harold Acton, Cecil Beaton, Lord Berners, Cyril Connolly, the Mitfords, Harold Nicolson, Vita Sackville-West, Virginia Woolf, the Bloomsbury Set, not to mention the novels of Anthony Powell and Evelyn Waugh, et al. These have covered the ground so articulately, with such nuance and malice-fueled acuity, that later writers struggle to be heard. Stourton succeeds in making himself audible above this chatter by spinning adventure yarns out of Clark the administrator and indefatigable committee-joiner.

Later in his review McMahon makes another nod to Waugh with his reference to the early years of WWII as “this Put Out More Flags period.”

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