Weekend Roundup of Waviana

An Athens art exhibit has been titled “The Unseen Hook” (Το αόρατο αγκίστρι). The name is taken from Evelyn Waugh’s novel Brideshead Revisited. As explained in an article on a Greek website:

The “invisible hook” is what binds us to the past – memories, emotions, secrets and canceled expectations, everything that has shaped us and shaped us, everything we loved and betrayed, hurt and hurt us. Starting with this phrase, artists Andreas Vouras and Alexandros Maganiotis meet and present a common visual proposition, content and multiple readings. A proposition in the core of which lies the notions of memory, experience and identity.

Translation is by Google. The credit for the quoted language should go, however, to G K Chesterton. It is taken from a Father Brown story (“The Queer Feet”) which is recalled in Waugh’s novel by Cordelia.

‘…I wonder if you remember the story mummy read us the evening Sebastian first got drunk – I mean the bad evening. “Father Brown” said something like “I caught him” (the thief) “with an unseen hook and an invisible line which is long enough to let him wander to the ends of the world and still to bring him back with a twitch upon the thread.”‘ (Penguin, p. 212)

The exhibit opens on 2 February at the Alma Gallery in the Kolonaki district of Athens. See a video tour of the exhibit here.

Another reference to Brideshead appeared in the National Catholic Register, linking it to Milton’s Paradise Lost:

When it comes to literature, there are plenty of examples in which right and wrong portrayed subtly have led to confusion.  Evelyn Waugh’s masterful and very Catholic novel, Brideshead Revisited, is adored by numerous secular critics only because they fail to see its Catholicity.  Waugh, writing from the point of view of a narrator who is (for most of the story) not Catholic, is too subtle for his advocacy of the Faith to be grasped by many readers.  A still more grave example of this phenomenon is Milton’s Paradise Lost.  Milton asserts rather grandly near the beginning of his biblical epic that he intends “to justify the ways of God to man,” an intention which even a minute scholarly knowledge of Milton’s life and opinions supports.  But over the centuries since Milton wrote, scores if not hundreds of readers have felt (in the words of William Blake) that Milton was “of the Devil’s party without knowing it.”  Milton has been rolling in his grave ever since… For every person misled by Waugh’s novels or Milton’s poetry, there are perhaps two people whose faith is strengthened by their work—perhaps greatly strengthened…

The Financial Times reviews a new novel (The Adulterants) by Joe Dunthorne (his third) about a free lance journalist’s picaresque quest to find a larger flat in east London. This is compared to a Waugh novel:

Dunthorne gleefully sends Ray on a trajectory similar to that of Paul Pennyfeather in Evelyn Waugh’s Decline and Fall (1928). Just when you think things couldn’t get any worse for our roguish protagonist, things continue their downward spiral. And just as there was something baroque and cruel about the way Waugh pitched Pennyfeather into ever rougher seas, Dunthorne is similarly cold-blooded in his treatment of Ray, a figure you simultaneously feel empathy for, yet wouldn’t mind seeing a little sense knocked into. …As with Pennyfeather’s fall from grace, Ray’s steady disintegration is oddly pleasurable to read. Dunthorne — also a published poet — has a humorous, well-observed precision to his writing …

A quote from Scoop opens an article in the online journal of the Stategic Culture Foundation, which is devoted to the practice of journalism. This is entitled “Nobody Cares About ‘The News'” and is written by Patrick Armstrong:

In his mordant novel Scoop, Evelyn Waugh has one of his characters explain what “The News” is:

‘News is what a chap who doesn’t care much about anything wants to read. And it’s only news until he’s read it. After that it’s dead.’

There is a great deal of wisdom in this little remark that I will attempt to unpack. It also, in my opinion, succinctly explains why we, who believe ourselves to be so brilliantly analytical and persuasive on sites like this one, have so little success in changing the opinions of our friends and neighbours (or awakening them as we might prefer to say).

Finally, another reference to Scoop turns up in the interview of a new novelist by the student newspaper (Palatinate) of Durham University where he was formerly a student and the paper’s editor. This is Matthew Richardson whose novel, entitled My Name is Nobody, is an espionage thriller currently being adapted for TV. When asked about his literary inspirations, he answered:

I did my dissertation at Durham on Evelyn Waugh so I really enjoy his work. He has a great novel, Scoop, which is a satire piece on the journalistic world … I have a huge respect for Dickens and Shakespeare. Graham Green, John le Carré … I especially like the authors that manage to bridge the gap between entertainment and high art. I prefer Dickens to Henry James.

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