–The Guardian in its “Top Tens” books column this week features “books on booze”. The selection by Henry Jeffreys is explained as “not a collection of books about drunkenness or alcoholism, though both feature. Rather, it is a celebration of those who write well about alcoholic drinks. […] Most drink-soaked fiction – by Graham Greene, Patrick Hamilton and others – ignores the nerdy stuff. It is the intersection between connoisseurship and drunkenness that interests me.” Among the books selected is Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited:
Brideshead is neither Waugh’s best book (I favour the Sword of Honour trilogy), nor his funniest (Scoop or The Loved One), but it is the best from a booze point of view. The scenes of drunkenness between Sebastian Flyte and Charles Ryder include some of the funniest parodies of wine talk: “a little, shy wine like a gazelle”. There’s also the excellent cognac-off between Rex Mottram and Ryder, which is a masterclass in razor-sharp snobbery.
–This is a reminder that the 2008 film production of Brideshead Revisited will be rebroadcast in the UK this Friday, 28 December at 1425p on BBC2. It will be available thereafter on BBC iPlayer. A UK internet connection is required.
David Bradshaw, John Bowen and Ann Pasternak Slater join Melvyn Bragg to discuss Evelyn Waugh’s comic novel Decline and Fall. Set partly in a substandard boys’ public school, the novel is a vivid, often riotous portrait of 1920s Britain. Its themes, including modernity, religion and fashionable society, came to dominate Waugh’s later fiction, but its savage wit and economy of style were entirely new. Published when Waugh was 24, the book was immediately celebrated for its vicious satire and biting humour.
–The pop culture website PopMatters.com has reposted another earlier article about adaptations of Waugh’s novels. This latest article is from 2014 and relates to the 1960s adaptations of The Loved One and Decline and Fall. See previous posts. The article by Michael Barrett appeared after the release of the two films on DVD (the second with the title Decline and Fall of a Birdwatcher). Barrett compares The Loved One to Christopher Isherwood’s more or less contemporaneous novel Prater Violet (about filmmaking in the UK) and discusses Diana Trilling’s reviews of that novel as well as those of The Loved One and Brideshead Revisited. Although not cited, Waugh also mentions Isherwood’s novel favorably in a 1946 letter. Barrett describes the film version of Decline and Fall as deserving a better reputation than it has heretofore enjoyed, stressing several technical elements of film production as worthy of praise as well as the acting of Robin Phillips in the role of Paul Pennyfeather.
–Finally, the journal Lapham’s Quarterly includes in its “Miscellany” column these two contrasting views of sunsets:
“Considering how seldom people think of looking for sunset at all and how seldom, if they do, they are in a position from which it can be fully seen,” it’s rare to witness an excellent one, John Ruskin argued in 1843. Evelyn Waugh saw a radiant pink sunset behind a shadow-gray Mount Etna in 1929. “Nothing I have ever seen in Art or Nature,” he wrote “was quite so revolting.”