Waugh’s Christmas, 2017

Waugh is remembered in the Yuletide press this year in several stories. In a fashion blog basenote.net, the perfume Nuit de Noël is mentioned:

when it comes to a real Christmas perfume, for me Caron set the standards way back in 1922 with their classic “Nuit de Noël.” A jazzy oriental, created by Caron’s founder and self-taught ‘nose’ Ernest Daltroff, it was a fragrant paean to the “Roaring Twenties” a generation determined to party till the bitter end, when the ghost of WWI still loomed over them. Author Evelyn Waugh even gave this perfume a plug in his era-defining 1930 novel Vile Bodies:

“… the waiter came in with a tray, the smell of kippers contending with Nuit de Noël rather disagreeably…”

This scent wastes no time in announcing itself – with its riotous blend of ylang ylang, rose jasmine, oakmoss and sandalwood, it’s the olfactory equivalent of stepping out in a cocktail dress, killer heels and a smattering of glitter.

In the Irish Times, Donald Clarke provides a Christmas column about rock music, noting that the now classic Christmas song Fairytale of New York by the Pogues was denied the Christmas number 1 spot in its day (1987) by a Pet Shop Boys cover of Always on my Mind. How this relates to Evelyn Waugh requires some explaining:

The implication is not just that The Pogues are a superior band. There is a further suggestion that the Anglo-Irish tea-tray abusers (that reference is going back a bit) are more “authentic” than the urbane, dial-twiddling Isherwood-quoters.

Just look at the state of The Pogues. Like all proper rock stars, they’ve allowed themselves to be dragged through a hedge backwards and have then gone on to smoke the hedge. Pet Shop Boys, when not wearing avant garde vegetables on their heads, dress as if they’ve got an appointment with the Duke of Snootington. What’s authentic about that? …

The myth of authenticity nags away at all art. Some people care that, before committing every unnecessary word of On the Road to unlucky paper, Jack Kerouac really did bore his way across the United States. He hammered the novel out in three weeks on one continuous scroll while living perilously on West 20th Street. On the Road may not be as good as Evelyn Waugh’s precisely contemporaneous The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold, but, as a posh bloke in a Somerset mansion wrote that book, it cannot compete in the authenticity stakes.

Your correspondent cannot claim familiarity with either band but does recognize Fairytale of New York as a now standard Christmas offering when he hears it. Never heard the Pet Shop Boys’ cover of Always on my Mind, however.

A Norwegian paper (Oppland Arbeidersblad) offers lists of winter reading (both classics and current) prepared by four literary critiics. Anne Merethe K. Prinos, who writes for the Aftenposten inlcuded Brideshead Revisited among her three classics:

A glorious new translation from 2017 that shows the way in a complex classic about British aristocracy in the Middle War. The 1981 TV show, in which Jeremy Irons plays the lead role as Charles Ryder, has remained surprisingly good and is still well worth seeing. Translated into Norwegian by Johanne Fronth-Nygren.

Translation into English by Google. The other two classics were Mrs Dalloway and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.

And finally, religious columnist Tod Worner chooses Christmas Eve to post an article on sainthood. This is on the religious website Aleteia. Worner quotes Waugh’s character Cordelia Flyte from Brideshead Revisited:

And the painfully accurate words of the young, bright Cordelia served to distill the plot of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, but also spoke to the essence of Sainthood.

“No one is ever holy without suffering.” 

Okay, okay. So Sainthood isn’t boring. But it seems awfully painful. And to be sure, these quotes from the pens of Waugh [and others] give stark testimony to the cost of faith.

Merry Christmas and best wishes for the new year to all our readers.

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