Waugh Underground

The digital/print magazine Mental Floss has reposted a 2016 story about Waugh’s contribution to the successful HBO TV series from the early 2000’s entitled Six Feet Under. This told the stories of a family in the funeral business. According to the article by Roger Cormier:

Carolyn Strauss, then head programmer of HBO, wanted her network to do a show about death after watching the 1965 movie adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s satirical book The Loved One, which was based on the Los Angeles funeral business.

The article then adds this additional factoid, which also recalls the inspiration of Waugh’s novel. The writer/producer Alan Ball:

“…purposely chose Los Angeles to set the series in because, in a show about death, why not set it in the world capital of the denial of death, which has got to be Los Angeles? Los Angeles is where you come to re-create yourself and to become immortal.”

Esquire magazine has a story which also relates to Waugh’s underground influence. This one deals with Dwight Gardner’s  memoir of his West Virginia coal miner grandfather, Archie:

He quickly rose to become a foreman. Later he branched out and in his spare time became a successful realtor. Archie had a big, bustling personality—he confronted each day as if it were a barn in need of raising. He was happier than most people. Maybe the fact that his own father had died young, in a car crash, gave him a sense that life is fleeting. He made the most of the best things in life and the least of the worst. Evelyn Waugh once wrote, “Instead of this absurd division into sexes they ought to class people as static and dynamic.” Archie was a dynamo. He wasn’t a sermonizer, but to be around him was to learn how to live. You picked up things. Some of the lessons he imparted were large and metaphysical, others minuscule and mundane.

The quote is from Decline and Fall and it is spoken by the ambitious German modernist architect Otto Silenus.

Finally, in a review of the BBC’s recent adaptation of E M Forster’s novel Howard’s End, a reviewer for the Jesuit magazine America made this comparison:

Howards End, E. M. Forster’s great 1910 novel, … was the basis for a perfect film adaptation in 1992 and for a smart, involving new series from the BBC, airing on the Starz cable network. The series is delivered in Sunday night installments that are bound to remind older, pre-binge-TV generations of their weekly dose of “Masterpiece Theatre” on PBS. (The show is now halfway through its four-part run.) Like Evelyn Waugh’s later classic, Brideshead Revisited, Forster’s is a state-of-the-nation thesis in the guise of a real estate inheritance plot, and the romantic affairs it traces signify deeper allegiances and betrayals.

In Waugh’s novel, religion replaced money as the driving force for the plot, although in both a large family house also played an important role.


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