Midwinter Roundup

–One of our readers Bruce Gaston contributed this item:

Early every morning on BBC Radio 4 there is a short item called “Tweet  of the Day”, which is actually about birdsong. Today’s bird was the  Great Crested Grebe. The continuity annoucer introduced the programme
and commented “the Great Crested Grebe does not hunt rabbits. Nor does it live in holes in the ground, as far as anyone knows…” No reference was made to Waugh or to Scoop as explanation. Does Radio 4 just assume its readers will spot the allusion?

(Although the programme itself is available online, the links seem to be done only for the live broadcast.)

Perhaps the BBC can make amends the next time they offer a broadcast on the subject of water voles.

–The Pasadena Star-Telegram has a story referring to the recent collection of diary entries about Los Angeles. This is entitled Dear Los Angeles and contains some comments of Evelyn Waugh about the city in his diaries. See earlier post. The Star-Telegram thinks a similar effort could be produced for nearby Pasadena, noting as an example Albert Einstein’s  former residence as a potential reference. Einstein described his enjoyable stay in Pasadena at the CalTech Athenaeum but left when Princeton made him a better offer. Waugh would also make an appearance in such a collection, according to the Star-Telegram. When celebrities arriving at the Coast travelled by train:

…many Hollywood-ish people […]  got off at the Santa Fe station at Raymond and Del Mar, now serving Gold Liners as La Grande Orange, instead of Union Station, to avoid the paparazzi. Evelyn Waugh wrote that day: “Arrived at Pasadena at 9 a.m. and were met by a car from MGM. We drove for a long time down autobahns and boulevards full of vacant lots and filling stations and nondescript buildings and palm trees with a warm hazy light. It was more like Egypt — the suburbs of Cairo or Alexandria — than anything in Europe.” L.A. gets a lot of that from the English novelists. Here’s Aldous Huxley to his brother, Dec. 12, 1939: “You will probably be about six hours each day in a car.”

–An online newsletter for artists called Visual Arts Source makes an interesting comparison between two novels which it says should appeal to today’s young artists:

…Two 20th-century novels are perfect for anyone under 30 living in big cities — or who remember being under 30 and moving to a Big City.

Vile Bodies” (1930) by Evelyn Waugh is all about twenty-somethings living in post-World War I London. Their siblings or fathers were killed in the war and, leaving them plenty of money, they rove from one party to another ending up entertained, but unhappier than ever. This is one of the greatest comic novels ever written in English.

The Golden Spur” (1962) by Dawn Powell, a forgotten author championed by Gore Vidal, takes place in Greenwich Village for the most part, with forays uptown and a fateful weekend in Connecticut. It, like “Vile Bodies,” is about a twentysomething, this one from rural Ohio (like author Powell), who is searching for the father he never knew but who learns about his late mother’s many “famous” suitors left behind after her youthful heyday in the Village. Once in New York, he not only finds his father, but his fortune and love as well.

The article goes on to summarize both novels and explains how the authors included characters based on artists of interwar London and postwar New York.

–The religious weblog Church Life Journal offers another comparison that includes a Waugh novel;

“All my days I have longed equally to travel the right road and to take my own errant path,” confesses Kristin Lavransdatter, a wealthy Norwegian noblewoman and titular character of Nobel Prize-winner Sigrid Undset’s three-part novel. Set in the fourteenth century, the saga follows the life of Kristin, one of the most complex female characters of 20th century literature, from womb to tomb. She wrestles with the weight of sin, her refusal to reconcile her will with God’s, and the suffering that accompanies her wayward decisions.

In Brideshead Revisited, British novelist Evelyn Waugh brings another multi-layered female character to life: Lady Julia Flyte, a wealthy heiress living decadently in 20th century England. Each woman is raised in a devout Catholic home and yet is caught between her own passions and her love for God. Separated not only by geography and several centuries, Kristin and Julia’s lives are very different. Kristin is a mother of many and she lives to become a grandmother. Julia is childless. But Kristin Lavransdatter and Brideshead Revisited share the same themes …

Waugh met Sigrid Undset in Oslo during his 1947 trip to Norway. In his diaries he mentions the meeting, which was arranged by his Norwegian publisher, but Undset made no positive impression.  Perhaps Waugh hadn’t read her novels.

–Another reader, Dave Lull, sends this excerpt from a book review by James K A Smith in the Los Angeles Review of Books. The book is by Timothy Larsen and is about John Stuart Mill:

TO BOTH HIS progressivist heirs and his conservative critics, John Stuart Mill is a secular saint, a priest of the triumphant modern moral order. Whether he is being celebrated or vilified, the 19th-century philosopher is portrayed as a paragon of rational enlightenment who, paradoxically, inspires ardent devotion to the sacred autonomy of the individual.[. . .]

Mill’s story, in that case, foreshadows the plot of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited: Harriet [Taylor] is the forerunner of a devotion in Mill that his own contemporaries described as “mystic.” Charles Ryder’s musing in Brideshead seems relevant: “[P]erhaps all our loves are merely hints and symbols; a hill of many invisible crests; doors that open as in a dream to reveal only a further stretch of carpet and another door.” Perhaps love is the beginning of knowledge.


–Finally, in another reference to Scoop, a Chinese news report from Hong Kong mentions a scandal in which a TV network got caught manufacturing news. They used actors to portray illegal immigrants purportedly living in Hong Kong public housing. ‘The reporter Zeng Guoping in the Hong Kong Chinese language free circulation  newspaper AM730 comments:

…Just happened to read the English novelist Evelyn Waugh’s “Scoop”, the background is in the 1930s, reporters from all over the world went to an African country to report the civil war, each of them made a small thing into a stunt. The protagonist who participated in a misunderstanding did not receive the “journalist training”. He did not deliver the goods to the boss, who asked him to “create” some of the news. The media made a big fraud. It was nothing new, but the media today. Diversified only. […]

“Exclusive News” has a message “News is what a chap who doesn’t care much about anything wants to read”; it is too hot. The news still has to be seen. In the face of the risk of making a big mistake, the correct attitude is not to just watch the news, let alone look at the reports of a certain media in a certain place. More reading, more observation, more thinking, independent of individual media, the proportion of information noise will rise, in addition to reducing their chances of doing something wrong (including investment), it can also alleviate the populist tendencies in society, the government’s stupid policies will be less One.

The quoted language defining “news” is also from Scoop (if memory serves). The translation is by Google. For original Chinese text see this link.

UPDATE: The entry from the LARB was added after the initial posting. Thanks to both Bruce Gaston and Dave Lull for their contributions.

UPDATE 2 (9 February 2019): References to AM730 are corrected to reflect that it is a newspaper, not a radio station.

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