Roundup: Waugh on Wine and More

–Literary critic and novelist A N Wilson writing in the Daily Mail has reviewed the recent reprint of Auberon Waugh’s book Waugh on Wine. According to Wilson:

Celebrated author and journalist Auberon Waugh was an iconoclast, a political maverick and wine connoisseur. When he died prematurely at 61 in 2001, he left a set of nine expensively stocked cellars at Combe Florey, the family home in Somerset — and a full-bodied collection of wine columns. Almost every one was distinguished by an impertinent, robust nose — and a decidedly acidic finish. […]

Waugh, whose father, the novelist Evelyn Waugh, started the family cellar, wrote about wine for Tatler, The Spectator and Harpers & Queen. An anthology of his most pungent columns, Waugh On Wine, published in the Eighties, soon became a classic among wine buffs. The book has just been republished to introduce a new audience to Waugh’s vigorous passion for the grape — and much else.

The story continues with several excerpts from the book containing just the sort of wine assessments Wilson describes in his article.

Wine Spectator also welcomes the reprint of Auberon’s book. After describing Auberon’s career, the Wine Spectator’s reporter concludes:

Some of Waugh’s wine wisdom is dated, of course—the original volume was published in 1987 and Waugh died in 2001—but he was ahead of his time on the wine and weed trend, advising that kabinett and spätlese Rieslings are “the only wines I have discovered which go well with pot, having a soothing and fragrant influence.” In the new intro, [publisher Naim] Attallah praises his chum’s “unsnobbish approach to wine” and remembers Waugh’s reaction when he gifted him a 1947 Cheval-Blanc on his birthday: “The joy on his face as he held the bottle in his hand … is still etched in my memory.” Some classics can please even the greatest contrarians.

–The Boston Globe previews a new HBO documentary on innovative ways of coping with death. This is called Alternative Endlings: Six New Ways to Die In America. The Globe’s assessment of it opens with this:

In one of the wackier gags in the 1965 film adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s “The Loved One” a funeral ends with the dear departed blasting off in a missile bound for outer space. Today that’s just one of the latest funeral possibilities seen in Perri Peltz and Matthew O’Neill’s lightheartedly morbid and often poignant documentary.

Given the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, the missile option has special appeal. In a service provided by Celestis Memorial Spaceflights, the ashes of the deceased — here a beloved dad and husband with a love of the extraterrestrial — joins several other cremated fellow passengers as extra baggage, “a secondary payload,” on a NASA flight. Loved ones gather at a safe distance and cheer at the familiar but always stirring spectacle of a successful blast-off. They cheer again minutes later when a loudspeaker announces that the missile has entered outer space for a voyage which, depending on what you want to spend, can be suborbital, orbital, lunar, or infinite.

The idea from the film that has now been realized was not Waugh’s but the scriptwriters’ Terry Southern and Christopher Isherwood (more likely Southern since it seems a bit too “wacky” for Isherwood).  Waugh himself was appalled at the wholesale changes wrought in the script.

Other new ideas in the documentary include converting the deceased’s remains into a cement ball so that it can be made part of a coral reef and holding a “living wake” to which a dying loved one invites  friends and family. The HBO documentary airs in the USA next  14 August 2019 and will be available for streaming on HBO Go. A different schedule may apply in the UK.

–Patrick Maxwell on a Lib-Dem website reckons that Boris Johnson’s premiership will be one of the shortest-lived in history. After offering several reasons, he concludes with this:

Johnson’s weakness is the perfect chance for Lib Dems. Behind the impressive visage lies a childlike desire to be liked, and in the surroundings of No10 such amiability will soon wear off. To interpret Evelyn Waugh in Brideshead Revisited,

“Charm is the great English blight. It does not exist outside these damp islands. It spots and kills anything it touches. It kills love; it kills art; I greatly fear, my dear Boris, it has killed you.”

–Finally, blogger Patrick Kurp on his weblog Anecdotal Evidence offers a reconsideration of a memoir of Waugh by one of his Gloucestershire neighbors. The posting contains several excerpts and opens with this:

Evelyn Waugh is the most brilliant and infuriating of writers, the envy of anyone who sweats his prose and an object lesson in how not to treat other people. We need him now more than ever. Imagine Waugh on Twitter. I might be tempted to open an account just to retweet his barbs.Frances Donaldson in her memoir Evelyn Waugh: Portrait of a Country Neighbour (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1967), published a year after Waugh’s death, gives a nuanced look at Waugh’s sometimes exasperating behavior, neither condemning nor excusing him. Her goal is understanding…


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