Post-Holiday Roundup

–Stephen Bush writing in The Times about the Labour Party’s dysfunctional position on Brexit opens with this:

Evelyn Waugh once complained that the Conservative Party, for all its efforts, had never even managed to “put the clock back a single second”. The Brideshead Revisited author would have made an unlikely Corbynite but on that basis if no other he might have been a fan of Jeremy Corbyn, who has successfully put Labour’s clock back four years: to 2014, when Ed Miliband was in charge…

–In much the same vein, the English-language paper Buenos Aires Times has an op-ed article about the new populist president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, that begins:

Had he remained around long enough, Evelyn Waugh would surely have approved of Jair Bolsonaro, a man whose views on what is happening to the world are much the same as those that were memorably expressed in the ‘Sword of Honour trilogy’ by his fictitious hero Guy Crouchback who, in a dark moment when everything was going wrong, muttered to himself: ‘The enemy at last was plain in view, huge and hateful, all disguise cast off. It was the Modern Age in arms.”  […]

Over half a century has gone by since Waugh […] started yelling stop. Since then, the trends [he] so eloquently deplored have rushed onwards, overwhelming all the obstacles placed in their path, but recently the causes [he] embraced with self-conscious quixotism have found new champions. The “populists,” whose mere existence is driving many “progressives” haywire, come in many shapes and sizes, but they all agree that the “modern age” is a dangerous aberration that must be done away with before it is too late.

–The Irish Times has published an interview of novelist Brian Moore recorded in 1973 but never published. This was conducted by Tony Kilgalin at Malibu while Moore was teaching at UCLA. Evelyn Waugh is cited at two points in the interview:

Q. So it’s like these Malibu waves: if you go with the wave you eventually don’t have to worry about them.
A. …I think I am more in the Joycean vein in that I don’t think in terms of this book being like my last book, or of repeating a success. The thing I am interested in doing is not writing the same book twice. Many people write the same book over and over again and they are very good books. I am not knocking that. Evelyn Waugh said that everyone has very few tunes to play. He’s right and he wrote a similar book over and over and it was always brilliant and you could read every one of them and enjoy them and each of them was done from a different point of view and was marvellous. In fact, he is probably the greatest English writer of the century, I think.[…]

One doesn’t fall in love with writing and books in quite the same way at 40 as one did at 19. Yet it is funny, if you read Waugh over again, if you liked Waugh, it is just as funny, the fourth or fifth time round. You begin to spot his bigotries, his snobberies and various things like that, but he still stands up remarkably well. I’ll still pick up most books by Greene or English writers of that period. You just sort of know that they write in some way that will hold your attention, which is getting back to the thing we were discussing. They all have a deep and abiding sense of what is funny, what is plot.

–Also in the Irish Times there is a review of a new collection of short stories by Mazen Maarouf entitled Jokes for the Gunmen This is described as “a debut collection that returns over and over again to the subject of humour as its characters try to make sense of life in a Lebanese warzone.” Here’s the opening paragraph of Sarah Gilmartin’s review:

Did you hear the one about the man trapped in a warzone where hundreds around him die every day? In real life, we don’t tell jokes about war but fiction can successfully combine the two. From Evelyn Waugh’s satirical journalism in Scoop, to the antics of Joseph Heller’s Catch 22, to Milan Kundera post-war disillusionment in The Joke, to Jesse Armstrong’s recent novel Love, Sex and Other Foreign Policy Goals, the truth and absurdity of war can often be revealed by humour.

Communio: The International Catholic Review has this article in its newly published Spring 2018 quarterly issue (#45.1):

R. V. Young, in “Literature in the Waste Land: Brideshead Revisited and Literary Education,” presents Evelyn Waugh’s novel as a model for fiction’s mission to represent concretely the form of human action. Young notes that critics of the novel have often failed to grasp its beauty because they assume that it serves an extrinsic end, such as Christian apologetics or a projection of the author’s own lifestyle and character. When we grasp that the work possesses its own integrity, however, a novel like Brideshead Revisited grants its readers the enjoyment of “an image of moral and spiritual reality . . . that nurtures our imaginations and enhances our understanding of the world of experience that we inhabit.”

The full article appears in the print edition only.

–Finally, blogger Edward Champion has posted a review of Scoop on his webpage “Reluctant Habits” as part of his effort to read and describe all 100+ books on the Modern Library List of the best 100 20th Century novels. Scoop is #75 of the list and he doesn’t much like it:

As much as I appreciate Scoop‘s considerable merits (particularly the fine and often hilarious satire when the book takes place on Waugh’s home turf), I cannot find it within me to endorse this novel’s abysmally tone-deaf observations on a fictitious Abyssinia — here, Ishmaelia.

He had previously posted an equally negative review of Brideshead Revisited which is #80 on the list:

It is safe to say that I did not shed a single tear for any of the assholes in Brideshead Revisited, although I was not without empathy. My salubrious contempt for people who bitch and moan when they have it all has been memorialized in several places, and I’m not likely to shake this quality anytime soon. It didn’t exactly enhance my reading experience when Charles Ryder, Waugh’s protagonist, was revealed to have the very exemplar of a free ride existence.

Champion is looking forward to rereading and reviewing A Handful of Dust, #34 on the list (he is reading from bottom to top), which he describes as:

…a legitimate masterpiece. So I will try to give Waugh a more generous hearing when we get there in a few years. For now, I’m trying to shake off his seductive spite as well as the few remaining dregs of my own.


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