End-of-the-Month Roundup

–Today’s New York Times has an article about people who choose to have portraits of their houses painted rather than photographed:

While landscape portraiture became a common endeavor for artists centuries ago, homes were rarely the principal subjects of the paintings. The Vanderbilt family commissioned artist John Singer Sargent to paint several family portraits in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, for example, but none of Biltmore Estate, their famed 8,000-acre property in Asheville, N.C. One house portrait painter of note, albeit fictional, was Charles Ryder, the narrator of Evelyn Waugh’s novel “Brideshead Revisited.” He was not taken very seriously as an artist, but his vocation was a convenient vehicle for exploring Brideshead Castle and the world it represented.

Charles got his start in house portraiture not at Brideshead Castle but at Marchmain House in London, which he memorialized on canvas inside and out before the family sold it off to be torn down and redeveloped into flats.

–Yesterday’s Times newspaper carried an interview of veteran BBC TV presenter Michael Parkinson. It opens with this:

My favourite author or book
Anything by Graham Greene or Evelyn Waugh. They’re my two favourite authors of all time. Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop, because I’m a journalist and laughed all the way through it, and Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair. You can pick any book you want, but those two are the best of the bunch from my point of view.

His favorite TV series, however, is Z-Cars. The most over-rated book in his opinion is Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses.

–The religious website Aleteia.org makes a recommendation for 7 books to be read by Roman Catholic women this summer. They make picks in several categories:

If you like historical fiction …

Grab Helena by Evelyn Waugh. It’s a short book about an intriguing time in history … and a saint. Not only is Helen a saint, but she was a married woman, and mother to an emperor in Rome. A powerful and enjoyable story about a strong woman living in very interesting times.

–The New Criterion has a review by Simon Heffer of two recently republished books that have a possible connection to Waugh’s Sword of Honour. These are by John Verney who is described in the review:

…Verney was born in 1913 and, like many young men of his generation, was sufficiently concerned by the threat of Nazi Germany to the peace of Europe and the security of Great Britain that, in 1937, he joined the Territorial Army, or yeomanry, whose members trained as soldiers during summer holidays and on weekends. Verney found the men with whom he was thrown into association rather unfathomable: “My brother officers. Are they human?,” he asks. Until the war he worked in the cinema, as an assistant director in Britain’s then-booming film industry. But the war changed everything for him. Before too long he began to fathom his brother officers, and one of the miracles of war was that its necessities bonded them together against a common enemy.

Verney chronicled his war—after a fashion—in two books: Going to the Wars, published in 1955, and its sequel, A Dinner of Herbs, which appeared in 1966. They enjoyed a significant vogue when they first arrived, with reviewers seeing Verney as the voice of his generation; they have, however, rather like their author, been largely forgotten. Therefore it is clever of Paul Dry to rediscover them and put them again before the public in paperback…

After a description of the two books, Heffer closes his review with this:

The first volume of this duo appeared in the same year as the second book in Evelyn Waugh’s Sword of Honour trilogy; one wonders whether Verney had read Waugh’s Men at Arms, the first novel in the trilogy, published in 1952, because the tone of voice is uncannily similar. That could be not least because Waugh, though a decade older than Verney, came from a similar background and endured a similarly frustrating war spent partly on special operations. Or, perhaps more importantly, it could be because they were both similarly schooled that the English way to deal with a sticky situation is to laugh about it, and to find the ludicrous rather than the heroic or the noble. Waugh dealt in fiction; Verney, despite the name changes, dealt in fact. All his tone does is convey the genuine nobility that he and his fellow warriors against Nazism possessed, and which a whole new generation reading these books may find almost impossible to grasp.

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