In order to switch off from Brexit in the evenings, your correspondent has taken to re-reading his favourite novels. Yet there is no escape! At the start of Evelyn Waugh’s Decline and Fall, we find the Oxford University Bollinger Club running riot and disrobing a fellow undergraduate, Paul Pennyfeather, who dashes across the quad stripped naked for the safety of his rooms. His fate is to fall into the hands of the college authorities and be “sent down” for indecent behaviour. Meanwhile, the perpetrators escape unscathed.
Now the Bollinger Club is obviously modelled on the notorious Bullingdon Club, to which David Cameron, Boris Johnson and George Osborne once belonged. And I cannot resist drawing the parallel between what the Bollinger Club do to Pennyfeather and what the Bullingdon trio have done to the country.
In the end both Cameron and Johnson got it wrong and were caught out when Brexit was approved by a small majority. The article concludes:
As that doyen of New York Times commentators, Roger Cohen, observes: “‘Fantasy Brexit’ was based on lies, like the imminent invasion of 80 million Turks … Now Britain has had a three-year crash course in ‘Reality Brexit.’ This government does not know what it is doing or where it is going. We are told there will be a “transition period”. But as [Bank of England’s governor Mark] Carney said to the Lords economic affairs committee last week: “Transition is knowing where you are headed, not wondering.’’
–Lapsed Roman Catholic Tom Utley writes about Lent in the Daily Mail:
For the remaining 44 days until Easter, Mrs U will let not a drop of alcohol nor a morsel of chocolate pass her lips — except on Sundays, when Christian tradition dating from the 4th century allows her to break her Lenten fast. Not for her any half-measures during Lent, like those adopted by Laura Waugh, second wife of the novelist Evelyn. Her son, the brilliant late journalist Auberon, once wrote that his mother restricted herself to one glass of Cyprus sherry per day in the weeks of fasting and abstinence before Easter. But he added: ‘She used a receptacle which others might have identified as a large flower vase.’ Apparently, she carried it with her from room to room, sipping away all day long.
–In this month’s Oldie there is a book review by Kate Kellaway of Auberon Waugh’s A Scribbler in Soho . She worked for a period with Auberon Waugh at the Literary Review and she relates:
One lunchtime, Bron asked me to ring Anthony Powell to ask him to review a book about cats. Innocent of the feud between the two men and a Powell devotee myself – I was doubtful whether this was a good idea. But I did as I was told and got an earful – what was I doing phoning at lunchtime? And no, he would not like to review a book about cats. I was mortified. Bron was greatly amused.
Thanks to Hugh Duncan for posting this on the Anthony Powell Society discussion page.
–Veteran Latin American reporter Alma Guillermoprieto is interviewed in the Columbia Journalism Review. In this exchange she explains how she got her start in 1978 when the Sandinistas overthrew President Somoza in Nicaragua and she covered the story for the Guardian:
Q. How was it to land in Nicaragua amid an armed conflict as a first-time reporter?
A. By the time I got there, which was a week into the insurrection, there was a lull, and I had a week to learn the ropes. There was a lot of press there, and they took me under their wing. They couldn’t believe that somebody so clueless [laughs] would suddenly show up. So I had a very quick training. A small war is always an excellent place to start becoming a journalist.
Q. How is that so?
A. If you read Scoop [by Evelyn Waugh, in 1938], which is the best novel about journalism ever written, it is just. . . it is an opportunity for young journalists. Newspapers and the media in general tend to need more reporters, because it is a crisis situation. So even if you are young and inexperienced you can move right in.
Loss and the nostalgia to which it gives rise is the central theme of Brideshead Revisited. And it’s loss on so many levels: a loss of physical and socio-cultural landscapes, a loss of youth, of relationships, of family, hope and of religious faith. It’s also believed that Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited is autobiographical on a number of fronts–certainly in terms of religion, the author’s embrace of a rich tapestry of tradition that finds expression in England’s privileged classes and his own relationships during his student years at Oxford and beyond.
Apparently the British snob Evelyn Waugh would not have approved of James Patterson and Bill Clinton’s recent successful collaboration because years ago he said, “I never could understand how two men can write a book together; to me that’s like three people getting together to have a baby.”