“The Loved One” Anniversary Marked

The Pilot, newspaper of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese pf Boston, has published an article marking the 70th anniversary of the US publication of Waugh’s novel The Loved One. This is by Russell Shaw who explains that the book was published in June 1948 and quickly went through four printings by the end of August. In this case, first US book publication preceded first UK publication by several months. A UK version of the book had, however, been published in Cyril Connolly’s Horizon magazine in February 1948.

Shaw goes on to explain the importance of the book beyond its comedy and satire:

The tipoff to the book’s deeper, darker meaning comes early, when an elderly Englishman whose Hollywood career is in a terminal nosedive makes passing reference to a magazine piece about Soviet scientists who are said to be keeping a severed dog’s head alive: “It dribbles at the tongue when it smells a cat. That’s what all of us are, you know, out here.” The aging Englishman means “out here in Hollywood.” But Waugh means “out here in the world where materialism reigns.”

The point of what seems to be a casual aside becomes devastatingly clear late in the story, when the body of a Whispering Glades cosmetician who has taken her life at her workplace (to the huge embarrassment of the head mortician, her suitor) is surreptitiously disposed of in the crematorium of the Happier Hunting Ground…Waugh for his part is taking deadly aim at philosophical materialism and its implications for human self-understanding. If the materialists are right about human beings, he’s slyly saying, there is no special reason to make a distinction between the two cemeteries of his tale or to turn up our noses at those Soviet scientists and their dog’s head.

A slightly revised edition of the book with a new preface by Waugh was published in 1965 in both the UK and USA.

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