Late July Roundup

–The latest issue of The Oldie has an article by David Horspool comparing the WWII novels of Lev Grossman (Stalingrad), recently published for the first time in a complete English translation, and Joseph Heller (Catch 22), recently adapted into a TV series. Both were written by novelists with first-hand experience of the combat and other events that they describe and both books were published several years after the events. In both cases according to Horspool

…we are reading about a genuine experience. But the ambition of these novels goes far beyond that, so that the fact of being an eyewitness is subsumed into a much larger ambition […] and their historical context would have informed their writing. The only contender the English novel can put up to the classics of witness by Grosman and Heller is Evelyn Waugh’s Sword of Honour trilogy. Along with Put Out More Flags (1942), the trilogy made use of Waugh experiences in the Royal Marines and as a commando.”

Horspool goes on to mention the well-known classics War and Peace and The Red Badge of Courage as well as several lesser known British novels based on first-hand experience soon to be published by the Imperial War Museum, including one based on the homefront. This is Kathleen Hewitt’s Plenty under the Counter. In that connection, he might also have mentioned the recent republication of a novella and memoir about the homefront; this is called Blitz Writing by Waugh’s friend Inez Holden. See review in current issue of Evelyn Waugh Studies.

–A recent article in the Daily Telegraph has the title “Better four good friends, Ed Sheeran, than 100 you can never get rid of”. Sheeran is a British singer-songwriter who records albums with titles such as “+” and “÷”. The article, written by Jane Shilling refers to advice given to Charles Ryder by his Cousin Jasper in Waugh’s novel Brideshead Revisited (London: 1945, p. 25) regarding friendships made as an undergraduate at Oxford: “You’ll find you spend half your second year shaking off the undesirable friends you made in your first.”

–Journalist Patricia Nicol writing in the Mail-on-Sunday includes Brideshead Revisited among the books about summer holidays that her children should read in their own:

It is the summer of 1923 that features so memorably in Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited. Charles Ryder is in hell in London with his remote father. Then summons arrive from his friend Sebastian Flyte, who has broken a leg and demands a holiday companion. Brideshead, then Venice, beckon.

–The weblog last week chose as its word of the week “mésalliance”, offering this explanation:

Craig Brown’s book, Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret, is enormous fun, even for people who aren’t fans of the royals.

A kind of a meditation on the art — and limitations — of biography, the book turns the genre on its head by providing alternative scenarios and by debating which of several competing accounts of the same story might be true.

The book is not only splendidly written, it also gave me a word of the week, mesalliance. Here’s how Brown employed it, using a quotation from the noted English writer Evelyn Waugh:

Like all loyal subjects of the monarchy, I am appalled by the proposed mesalliance. […]

The quote comes from a letter Waugh wrote to Ann Fleming on 28 April 1960 (Letters, p. 537).

The Spectator in its “Australian Notes” column has an item entitled “Superglued to the Greens”. The story opens with this reference to Evelyn Waugh:

The great satirical novelist Evelyn Waugh once catalogued a fictional, remote and newly-converted Christian sect who continued to engage in cannibalism but not during Lent and only with ‘special and costly dispensation from their bishop’. […]

Take this month’s superglue protests. Queenslanders gave emphatic support to the Adani mine at the recent Federal election, so two environmental activists thought the best response was to superglue themselves to Queen Street, holding up traffic in Brisbane’s CBD for three hours.

They were somewhat thoughtful in their preparation. Presumably expecting that three hours superglued to a hot, bitumen Brisbane street could be rather uncomfortable, the activists thoughtfully brought along their own yoga mats to comfort them through their ordeal.

The reference to the fastidious cannibals comes from Scoop, Book II, Chapter 1, “Stones £20”.

Filmmaker Magazine has posted on the internet for the first time a 2000 interview with Mary Harron. This  involves her role as co-screenwriter and director of the contemporaneous film adaptation of the novel American Psycho. The novel was written by Bret Easton Ellis and published in 1991. According to Harron:

It is a black comedy/horror film. I am sure that this mix of genres will make some people uncomfortable, since it goes from being funny to unsettling without any transition […] When I first read the book, it reminded me of Evelyn Waugh’s first novels, like Vile Bodies, a satire on the 1920s in London. It is a more benign book than American Psycho, but it has some of the same surreal black comedy — a comedy of manners of a decadent, crazy world of money and privilege.

Based on IMDB data, the film appears to have been successful. It was made for the relatively reasonable budget of $7 million and took in $34 million worldwide.


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