Early September Roundup

–Waugh biographer Selina Hastings has reviewed D J Taylor’s recent literary history Lost Girls in the Literary Review. See earlier posts. Her review concludes with this:

In Lost Girls, Taylor presents a colourful portrait of this fascinating, sophisticated and highly sexualised literary world. The chaos of the lives of these lost girls, their husbands, lovers, friends and enemies, is expertly narrated. Taylor also offers excellent descriptions of the daily routine in the Horizon office and, crucially, of that ruthlessly dominating figure, Connolly himself. Occasionally, the stage becomes a little overcrowded: there are a few too many digressions, too many lesser—known figures, past and future husbands and wives, lovers, friends, writers and members of society all of them interesting in them selves but slightly distracting, their appearances too often turning the spotlight away from the leading members of this eccentric cast. All in all, however, this is a remarkable work and an important addition to the extraordinary wartime history of literary London.

Oddly, although Evelyn Waugh plays a prominent part in the book, Hastings doesn’t mention this in her review.

The Spectator offers advice to incoming university students in a column by Stephen Schmalhofer. He recognizes that a large majority of them may opt for the study of business and investment rather then the Humanities but urges them nevertheless to read as many novels as possible to hone their ability to deal with people in their chosen commercial professions. He offers examples of what several novels have to offer about human types likely to be encountered, including this one from a Waugh novel:

In Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited you meet Hooper, ‘a man to whom one could not confidently entrust the simplest duty.’ He sleeps soundly while his manager lies awake fretting. You will meet many Hoopers but try not to hire them.

–Harry Mount, writing in the Catholic Herald welcomes the news that Duolingo, the most popular internet language learning site, is going to offer courses in Latin. One of the reasons Mount advances for why Latin is important in contemporary life is this:

I’ve got a theory about a certain generation of English writers, born in the first half of the last century: Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene, Anthony Powell and Kingsley Amis. They caught the tail end of the same sort of in-depth Latin education [previously offered]. But they also grew up in the days of Modernism, and novels written in easy-going, conversational English. The combination usually worked out brilliantly: they could move between serious and jokey registers, and between highfalutin and rough and ready ones.

I can’t speak Latin. I wish I could. […] But I do know enough Latin to know that every new Latin word I learn intensifies not just my understanding of Latin and English, but also of Western civilisation.

–The Boston Globe interviews journalist, politician and now academic Samantha Power about her favorite reading. In one answer, she explains the books she read in connection with her assignment to cover the Bosnian War in the 1990s. After she lists several non-fiction books with Yugoslavian themes, she concludes wth this:

At the same time we were carrying around the Bosnian novelist Ivo Andric’s The Bridge on the River Drina, Rebecca West’s Black Lamb and Grey Falcon and Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop.

Scoop had nothing to do with Yugoslavia (the war it covered was in Abyssinia) but may have been consulted by Powers and her fellow journalists because of what it had to say about foreign correspondents covering wars. On the other hand, she may have confused that title with Waugh’s book about war in Yugoslavia entitled Unconditional Surrender.

–A review in Flood Magazine compares the new album (“Norman F—ing Rockwell !”) by singer-songwriter Lana Del Ray to Waugh’s 1930 novel Vile Bodies:

… In accordance with her sixth album’s dictates—its stories of lost values and lit cultures, ladies of the (Laurel) canyon, and a mellow soft rock sound—the singer/songwriter [Del Ray…] fashions a modern take on Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies. Rather than England between the wars, Del Rey’s Rockwell! finds her setting her harmonious, sundown tones to the gullies of fantastic LA in the ’70s, her questions to an isolated Trumpian moment, all in a voice less breathy (her usual) than smug and disgusted—but unlike Waugh’s satirical look at decadent decay, Lana isn’t joking around.

–Blogger Daniel Harper on what is apparently a Unitarian/Universalist website cites Waugh’s description of his response to an Ethiopian Coptic religious service in When the Going was Good:

While watching the mass of the Abyssinian Orthodox church in Debra Lanos in 1930, during the coronation of Ras Tafari as emperor of Abyssinia, Evelyn Waugh noted that the liturgy was “quite unintelligible.” As a Roman Catholic, he had thought that the “canon of the Mass would have been in part familiar, but this was said in the sanctuary behind closed doors.” This observation led him to reflect on the exoteric (as opposed to esoteric) nature of Western Christianity[…]

After quoting further details of Waugh’s reaction to the Coptic service, the blogpost concludes:

Waugh, in 1930, was a recent and fervent convert to Roman Catholicism, and a good part of what he wrote here may be classed as Catholic apologetics directed at his Church of England readers. And some of what he wrote came from the fanciful imagination of the novelist, which is not to say that it is untrue, but it isn’t careful and dry academic discourse. And there is a core of truth in what he wrote: the mainstream of Western religion tends towards the exoteric, rather than the esoteric. This is as true of Protestantism and newer forms of Christianity as it was of Waugh’s Roman Catholicism. When the Pentecostal receives the baptism of the Spirit and speaks in tongues, it happens in front of the gathered congregation, and videos may be taken of the event and posted on Youtube. When the Unitarian Universalist minister delivers a highly intellectual sermon, everyone is welcome to come and listen to it, though you may need an advanced degree to keep up with the literary allusions and verbal footnotes.

The quoted material appeared originally in Waugh’s 1931 travel book Remote People.


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