A new novel by Edward St Aubyn (well known in this parish) has been published in both the UK and USA. This is Dunbar and is a reimagining of Macbeth in the Hogarth Shakespeare series. This involves leading writers such as Margaret Atwood, Jeanette Winterston and Howard Jacobson rewriting Shakespeare’s plays as novels. Here’s the introduction from a review in Maclean’s magazine in Canada (which also ties his works back to Evelyn Waugh):
The Hogarth Shakespeare project… has been beyond sharp in its pairings so far. But none is as inspired as turning loose Edward St. Aubyn, chronicler of upper-class British depravity, on King Lear. St. Aubyn, 57, has written five novels about the Melroses, a fictionalized version of his own wealthy family, openly portraying how he was raped repeatedly by his father between the ages of five and eight, his ineffectual mother, his prodigious youthful drug abuse and suicide attempts. What makes the novels art is not the horrific origin story, though, but their meld of suffering and corrosive social comedy—nightmares filtered through an Evelyn Waugh lens. And whether it’s personal history or Shakespeare’s dramatic power that form the root of his literary obsession, critics have noted that St. Aubyn often references Lear in his work and conversation.
This is a particularly active period in literary publishing, with the new biography of Anthony Powell and new novels by Alan Hollinghurst as well as St Aubyn. There is another review of the Powell biography in the Observer which emphasizes the influences of Powell, Waugh, Greene and Orwell on each other:
Tony Powell was born in 1905, part of a brilliant generation that included Eric Blair, AKA George Orwell (1903), Evelyn Waugh (1903), Malcolm Muggeridge (1903) and Graham Greene (1904). Among these headstrong Edwardian boys, inside-outsiders all, Powell, who outlived them, is the least colourful and the most English: phlegmatically reserved, aloof and nonconformist. He was, in the heyday of his 12-volume masterpiece A Dance to the Music of Time, very much a a contender, but has now been eclipsed. In posterity’s cruel audit, A Dance lingers as a curiosity in secondhand bookshops, while its author is almost as neglected, outshone by Orwell, Waugh et al. Hilary Spurling’s authorised biography arrives in the nick of time to remind us of her subject’s quiet genius. Addressing Powell’s “work, life and loves”, hers is the first full-scale life. It must also, perforce, grapple with what we might call the Powell Problem. Powell’s milieu has come to seem dated, its texture threadbare and its colours faded. He is not a moralist like Orwell, nor a great satirist like Waugh. He lacks Greene’s Manichean ferocity. He is, perhaps, too true to himself to be in the company of those big beasts