Mother’s Day Roundup

–The Washington Post has an op-ed article by Anne Applebaum that opens with this comparison between Donald Trump and Lord Copper from Waugh’s novel Scoop:

“A few sharp victories, some conspicuous acts of personal bravery on the Patriot side and a colorful entry into the capital . . . We shall expect the first victory about the middle of July.”

Those immortal words of advice were given to William Boot, the accidental foreign correspondent who is the hero of Evelyn Waugh’s novel “Scoop.” They came from the fictional newspaper proprietor, Lord Copper, who wasn’t too worried about which side were really “patriots”; he just wanted a happy and rapid end. Waugh’s novel satirized the British press of the 1930s, their empty sensationalism and their disdain for reality. A similar spirit pervades the making of U.S. foreign policy today.

The columnist then offers several examples, starting with the recent apparent shift in Donald Trump’s policy on Venezuela.

–The New Zealand Herald features an interview with local writer Vincent O’Sullivan. When asked what things he has to be wrathful about, one of them is sloth:

Sloth might have got an upper hand if it hadn’t been for deadlines, so you might say it’s that long shadow of sloth that gives you the space actually to work in, because other people are constantly prodding you. I remember when I was a student in England, Evelyn Waugh writing in the Sunday papers about sloth but I seem to remember it was other people’s sloth that so enraged him, because he said everything from – say – sloppy proofreading to bad theologians was all the result of sloth and bore out the slide of civilised values. I’m not going that far. It’s just interesting the different ways you can come at it.

Waugh’s 1962 essay about Sloth appeared as part of a Sunday Times series on the Seven Daily Sins which was later published as a book. A copy is collected in EAR. O’Sullivan’s latest book is All This By Chance, a novel about the legacy in New Zealand of the WWII persecution of the Jews.

–The Catholic Herald has posted a profile of artist Rex Whistler, a contemporary of Waugh who admired much of Whistler’s work. Daniel Frampton, who wrote the story, compares Whistler’s career to two of Waugh’s characters:

Comparisons with the artist Charles Ryder, Evelyn Waugh’s protagonist in Brideshead Revisited, have been made before. Ryder, who paints similar scenes to Whistler, does eventually convert [to Roman Catholicism], of course. However, it seems safer to continue to view Whistler as an unrepentant romantic, albeit with Catholic sympathies, as opposed to a likely convert.

[…] When war came in 1939, Whistler, despite his age, was determined to serve in a frontline unit. In a way, he was similar to another of Waugh’s great characters, Guy Crouchback, in the Sword of Honour trilogy. Crouchback’s war experiences are largely based on Waugh’s own involvement, fighting in such places as Crete. Whistler had the “strong feeling that if anyone has to go and fight it is precisely people of my age, and not the young boys”.

Unlike Crouchback and Waugh, Whistler did not survive the war but was killed in action shortly after the D-Day landings. Frampton might also have mentioned that Whistler made the drawings that Waugh selected to illustrate his post-war booklet Wine in Peace and War.

–In an article posted on her weblog From the Archivist’s Notebook, Natalia Vogelkoff-Brogan discusses the life of the well-travelled Charlotte Eleanor Ferguson who taught at the American College for Girls in Greece after graduation from Mount Holyoke College.  A collection of her letters was recently published (A Learning Teacher’s Odessey) in which she makes remarks  disdainful of “tourists” less well-treveled than she. This reminds Vogelfoff-Brogan of another seasoned traveller:

A recurrent theme in Charlotte’s letters is her low opinion of tourists, especially those who toured the Mediterranean in cruise ships. She took special pleasure in writing that “one insisted on going to see the Acropolis when they had just come down from it” or “tourists are so funny –they know so little and say so much…” [pp. 183, 187].

Reading Charlotte’s comments, I remembered that a few years ago, when I was writing “ ‘All Aboard’: Cruising the Aegean in 1923,” I read an enjoyable description of tourists in Evelyn Waugh’s Labels, published about the same time, in 1929: ‘… baffled, breathless, their heads singing with unfamiliar names, their bodies strained and bruised from scrambling in and out of motor charabancs, up and down staircases, and from trailing disconsolately through miles of gallery and museum at the heels of a facetious and contemptuous guide… Must they go on to the very end? Are there more cathedrals, more beauty spots, more sites of historical events, more works of art? Is there no remission in this pitiless rite?”

–Waugh is cited in a review of two new books inspired by the works of P G Wodehouse. These novels in “homage” to Wodehouse were written by Ben Schott (Jeeves and the King of Clubs) and Sebastian Faulks (Jeeves and the Wedding Bells). The review is by Richard Rex and appears in the religion and public policy journal First Things:

It was Evelyn Waugh, in a radio broadcast of 1961, who put his finger on [the] central moral truth in the perennially delightful literary world created by P. G. Wodehouse through seven decades of unremitting authorial labor. It was, Waugh observed, an “idyllic world,” an innocent realm untouched by sex or death, and immune (unlike its creator) from the imperative to work—to all intents and purposes, a world without original or mortal sin. There is nothing to be gained by recapitulating Waugh’s penetrating analysis of a world in which all is fair in love, and there is no war; in which misdemeanors and felonies (assault, blackmail, burglary, fraud, identity theft, kidnapping, and unlawful detention) find their guilt washed away by the absolution and indulgence of the author.

Waugh’s broadcast on the BBC Home Service was published the next day in the Sunday Times (16 July 1961) and is collected in EAR, p. 561.

–Finally, in recognition of Mother’s Day, here’s an extract from the weblog Wonkette in which writer Rebecca Schoenkopf continues the list of things her mother (“Mi Mamacita Communista”) taught her. This portion of a much longer list  (quite funny in parts) deals with recommended reading matter:

* Read “Catch-22.” A good place to do this is on the sand at Hermosa Beach in 1966.

* Read “Let’s Eat Right to Keep Fit.”

* Read Mother Jones and the Utne Reader.

* Read “A Prayer For Owen Meany.”

* Read Evelyn Waugh and the sainted Miss [Molly] Ivins.

* Erma Bombeck was funny too. No, really, she was!

* Read Eda LeShan, and take her childrearing tips to heart. Forgive yourself if you snap and smack your kid, but it’s a lot better to do it because you’re out of control than if it’s in-control and premeditated. Also, kiss your husband or wife before your kids when you get home from work, because the best thing you could possibly give your kids is parents who are happy and in love.

* Read e.e. cummings, Bukowski, and Thompson. The best way to do this is out loud at the dinner table. Also, the scene in “Tracks” where someone takes a shit on Louise Erdrich’s pillow.

* Reading trashy romance novels is giving me a skewed vision of life, and I will never marry and will always be sad.

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