Labor Day Roundup

Spy writer Ben Macintyre was recently interviewed by the New York Times. To the question which book by another author do you wish you had written, he answered:

I would love to have written “Scoop,” by Evelyn Waugh, that vicious but affectionate satire of journalism, exposing our trade in all its insane competitiveness, bravery, inefficiency and strange nobility. I must have read it a dozen times, and it still makes me snort. I would give anything to have written his parody of overstrained journalistic writing: “Feather-footed through the plashy fen passes the questing vole.”

In an article about Boris Johnson’s ambition to take over the Tory party leadership, Chronicles, a conservative American magazine, cited the same passage:

…Boris, who is out of Government and is ungovernable, can say what he likes. Last week, to general surprise, he chose to write on otters, who have been seen on the increase after years of falling numbers. Was Boris taking his cue from Evelyn Waugh? In Scoop comes this great spoof line: “Feather-footed through the plashy fen passes the questing vole.”

Australian sports journalist and author Rupert Guinness interviewed in the Sydney Morning Herald also cited Scoop:

I read this in my second-last year at school. A satirical portal into journalism, Scoop gave me a romantic sense of adventure that I believed a foreign correspondent experienced. In Scoop, William Boot is sent by the Daily Beast (albeit, under a mistaken identity) to the fictional state of “Ishmaelia” in East Africa. It helped firm my belief that anything can happen when in the right place and time – or, wrong place and time.

Surf Europe magazine asked surf writer Chas Smith to discuss his favorite books. Among them, he named this one by Evelyn Waugh:

“The funniest book I’ve ever read has to be Black Mischief by old Evelyn Waugh. I imagine someone writing something like that today, something that plays on racial stereotypes and tropes… Evelyn Waugh wrote with such a wonderful light touch that it feels like he could almost write anything, even grossly inappropriate things — obviously as parody — and get away with it. He was such a good writer that even in the era of social outrage he could write something like Black Mischief — I mean, he could write about NFL players taking the knee before football games — and probably still get away with it.

Tim Congdon, writing in Standpoint magazine about trade deficits and trade wars, and Donald Trump’s responses, was reminded of a Waugh character:

In 2017 the US had a deficit on trade in goods of $568.4 billion (about 3 per cent of output) and a deficit on current account transactions of $449.1 billion. In Trump’s view, both numbers are bad and something must be done. As Brigadier Ritchie-Hook explained in Evelyn Waugh’s Sword of Honour trilogy, foreigners are there to be biffed. Tariff increases constitute the weapons in the “war” Trump is now conducting. Their purpose is to make foreign goods more expensive in the US, so that higher prices reduce the amount that Americans buy, payments to foreigners fall and the deficits become surpluses. Victory can be declared when the US’s surpluses on its international payments are well-established and consistent.

Congdon goes on to explain that this will not be the likely outcome of the Trump tariffs.

Finally, Kathleen Burk in the Guardian considers books in which the British and Americans try to understand one another:

The British have always been fascinated by the US, and over the centuries have written countless novels, stories, reflections and books of reportage on America. In the 19th century at least 200 travellers’ tales were published, a notable example being Frances Trollope’s Domestic Manners of the Americans (1832). A bestseller on both sides of the Atlantic, it confirmed suspicions in Britain of the awfulness of some Americans…In the 20th century, there was plenty of evidence of cynicism and dislike. Evelyn Waugh’s The Loved One: An Anglo-American Tragedy (1948), set in Los Angeles, displays contempt for both self-deluding English expats and the even more bizarre Americans. David Lodge’s Changing Places (1975), in which academics from Birmingham and Berkeley exchange jobs, is more understanding, as well as funny.

 

 

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