Late January Roundup

–The New York Times, in a recent column in its By The Book series, interviewed dramatist and gay health rights activist Larry Kramer. Waugh came up in this context:

Q. What’s the last book you read that made you laugh?

A. This is a special subject for me. I love words and how they’re made beautiful. Two of my very favorite authors are P. G. Wodehouse and Evelyn Waugh. I am constantly rereading them. Each is a brilliant writer with great skill with words and the English language. No one writes a sentence like both of them. It makes me happy to laugh as I witness this expertise. I guess I should include my Yale classmate Calvin Trillin, who’s no slouch.

The Spectator has a story relating to the candidature of Rebecca Long-Bailey for leadership of the Labour Party. It relates to the irony of a Labour candidate with a hyphenated surname and opens with this:

When Francis Hurt inherited the Renishaw estate in 1777, he changed his surname to Sitwell. His eight-year-old son and heir Sitwell Hurt thus grew up to be Sir Sitwell Sitwell. ‘Perhaps his hypersensitive descendant should resume the patronymic and call himself Sir Hurt Hurt,’ Evelyn Waugh once remarked of his contemporary Osbert Sitwell.

I was reminded of this by a declaration from Rebecca Long-Bailey that her name now bears a hyphen. Ms Long-Bailey’s father Jimmy Long was a trade unionist and she is married to Stephen Bailey, but she did not want to be the last in a long line of Longs.

–Fr Dwight Longenecker comments on Waugh’s war trilogy on his weblog:

During my recent bout with the flu I had the chance to re-read Evelyn Waugh’s Sword of Honor trilogy. One of the criticisms of the books is that they are uneven, dull at times, confusing and disjointed. On re-reading I realize much of that was intentional. Waugh was showing the reality of war.

–A recent PhD dissertation relating to Waugh is mentioned in the CV of Dr Michael Horacki who teaches at Luther College in Regina, Saskatchewan:

His dissertation, Memory, Interpellation, and Assemblage: Multivalent Assemblage in the Novels of Virginia Woolf, George Orwell, and Evelyn Waugh (2019), examines the relationship between individual and group identity in the fiction of the three authors.

–A reader has added Waugh’s 1928 biography of Dante Gabriel Rossetti to the weblog for the St Louis Public Library’s current book challenge:

In this biographical study Evelyn Waugh seeks to understand both Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s success and his failure.  The former, he concludes, demands a spiritual aesthetics that transcends formal analysis, while the latter is best explained by the artist’s personal tragedies and character flaws.  Rossetti spent his career pursuing an ideal of the feminine, but was sabotaged by his own indiscipline and irresponsibility.

Rossetti was Waugh’s first full-length book, but if his development is certainly not complete the voice is already unmistakable his.  Especially delightful are his account of Rossetti and Whistler’s shared mania for blue china and the ethics of reviewing the books of one’s friends, although equally characteristic is his vivid description of his subject’s isolation, paranoia, and despair.

A photograph of the front cover of the book’s US edition is included.

–The Catholic News Service reviews a book by Joseph Pearce entitled What Every Catholic Should Know. The review is by Patrick Brown who writes:

…The book offers a Cook’s tour through pre-Christian epics, a full-throated defense of Dante’s “Purgatorio” and “Paradisio,” a helpful take on dystopian fiction and St. Thomas More, and rightfully effusive praise for the insights of Jane Austen. “Literature” becomes especially rich when Pearce gets to 19th- and 20th-century figures. […]

When, in contrast to the usual brief sketches, he spends a generous five pages on Evelyn Waugh’s “Brideshead Revisited,” you sense Pearce come alive with excitement about the book he calls “arguably the finest novel of the 20th century.” …

–Finally, writing in the the Guardian, Emma Jane Unsworth briefly compares a currently popular novel (I Am Sovereign by Nicola Barker) to earlier works with this rather quirky analogy:

The narrative style is elegant and frenetic, which suits the story of a house sale that becomes an existential scrum. [Satirical novelist] Nell Zink described it as “Evelyn Waugh on ecstasy” and I think that’s about right. Either that or F Scott Fitzgerald on meth. It’s also nice and short – I’m not a heathen but since having a child I read approximately one novel per year so the short ones feel much more doable.


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