This week’s Spectator has another writing competition in which a Waugh entry gets a mention. This is #3177 and the topic is “a well-known fictional person’s view of their author”. The Spectator’s Lucy Vickery cites some interesting non-winners in her opening to the article. Here’s the one that mentions Waugh:
… Anthony Blanche’s withering verdict on Evelyn Waugh as told to J.C.H. Mounsey: ‘My dear, what can I say? An absolute horror. Snobbish of course, being trade through and through. Constantly claiming gentry in his own b-b-background when the best that could be found were rows of sturdy yeomen…’
J C H Mounsey’s Waugh parodies have featured in earlier Spectator competitions mentioned in previous posts. He has once again kindly sent us his full entry for publication. The text follows on from “sturdy yeoman” in the above quote (and it actually gets better):
“…Did you ever meet Waugh père? My dear, a terrible old ch-ch-charlatan – endless amateur dramatics and poetry readings. Too shaming. You can see why Evelyn had to escape but his clothes! My dear! Bowler hats and suits with checks so loud that they were p-p-positively atomic. As for sex, well, he was definitely queer at Oxford and afterwards, all those children – if that wasn’t trying to prove something, I’m the D-D-Dalai Lama. And the rude-ness! I can’t tell you. In a league of his own and don’t let’s forget the c-c-cloying Catholic religiosity – always creeping round to priests and nuns and talking about men’s souls. Too gruesome.”
Two of the winning entries include characters in novels that were among Waugh’s favorites: George and Weedon Grossmith’s Diary of a Nobody and Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time.
Waugh is also mentioned in another Spectator article. This appears in the column of “Taki” Theodoracopulos who answers a letter in which a Spectator reader asks him what books he is currently reading. As he explains, he stopped reading novels 50 years ago:
…Because authors began to write very, very, very long books containing millions of words that didn’t exactly ever get to the point, instead describing weird objects in improbable situations. The style was even worse than magic realism. To someone like me, used to clear and precise prose, this defeated the purpose of reading. What I like is beautiful, descriptive prose about interesting people. Modernity was gimmicky. I remember Truman Capote’s description of On the Road: ‘That’s not writing, that’s typing.’ But I liked Kerouac, just as I liked the writing of the truly horrible man that was Capote. (The maligned Answered Prayers is a gem.)
So, Don DeLillo, Thomas Pynchon, Martin Amis and Salman Rushdie are not for me, and I am rather proud to say that I’ve never read more than a chapter of any of their books before giving up. It might not make sense, but I don’t believe a word they write, because fiction has to be believable. […] From what I’ve read about him, Evelyn Waugh was a horror — snobbish and a bully — yet reading his books, even at their satirical heights, I believe every word because I have met English people just like those he describes in Vile Bodies.
He goes on to describe the biographies and history books that now make up his reading selections.