Roundup: Ethics, Mimics and Graves

–The Minneapolis StarTribune posts a story about ethics in journalism built around a brief description of Waugh’s novel Scoop:

…As serious as the news is, a few laughs can’t hurt. You’re in for a lot of laughs in the 1938 novel “Scoop,” by the English author Evelyn Waugh, satirizing fierce competition among unethical British newspapers to build circulation through sensationalistic coverage of colonial wars in Africa.

One paper, the Daily Beast, finding itself shorthanded, mistakenly enlists as a war correspondent an innocent — William Boot — who lives with zany relatives in the countryside and contributes wispy trifles to the Beast about wildlife.

The process the Beast used to vet Boot was simple. Just one question: “Can he write?” One editor, reading aloud to another, quoted from a piece by Boot: “Feather-footed through the plashy fen passes the questing vole.” That line was good enough for them, and they dispatched Boot to Africa. […]

Those warring British newspapers operated without an ethics code. Now, in America, the Society of Professional Journalists publishes an ethics code. Editors and reporters learn how to overcome the biases we all have: Detach ourselves from the outcome of the story we are covering; facts are facts, whether we like them or not.

Fact: We are all questing voles, writing for food.

–An article in the San Francisco Chronicle reports a recent visit by their columnist Joe Mathews to the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale. The visit was inspired by the author’s realization that the number of graves in Forest Lawn just about equals the projected number of Americans who will have died in the coronavirus pandemic by early next year.  By walking around all areas of the cemetery, the scope of the tragedy can be more easily grasped. Waugh’s assessment of Forest Lawn at the time he visited in 1947 is duly noted. Several of the features which struck a satirical chord with Waugh are also mentioned (e.g. the massive entry gates), and in some cases updated details are supplied. The article also offered this insight that Waugh would have not had the occasion to notice:

Down the hill from the mausoleum is an older, flatter section so filled with light it feels like heaven’s front porch. There I walked amidst many graves from 1918 and 1919. Most of the people buried in them had died in their teens, 20s and 30s, the most common ages of Spanish flu victims.

In an earlier story, the Chronicle considered the lost art of letter writing in today’s electronic age. As examples of the recognition now being given to the importance of this lost art, the article cites the recent letter collections issued by Penguin.  These are entitled Letters of Note and are edited by Shaun Usher. See previous posts. Among them is a volume entitled “Love” in which:

Among the other missives […], there’s this from 33-year-old Evelyn Waugh, who, while waiting impatiently for the annulment of his first marriage, wrote to his soon-to-be ex-wife’s 19-year-old cousin a self-proclaimed “lousy proposition”: “I can’t advise you in my favor because I think it would be beastly for you, but think how nice it would be for me. I am restless & moody & misanthropic & lazy & have no money except what I earn and if I got ill you would starve.” They married, stayed together 30 years, and had seven children.

–Forum Auctions has on offer a “caricature portrait” of Waugh as a child previously owned by the Lord Berners Estate. This was mentioned in earlier posts when it was sold by Christie’s along with other items from that estate. Here’s the description:

Frederick Etchells (1886-1973)
Caricature portrait of Evelyn Waugh as a child, wearing a pale blue coat
Watercolour and bodycolour on card over pencil under-drawing, signed by the artist using an anagram ‘T. Chesell’ in the upper right corner, further inscribed ‘Not to be shown/ Unfinished Rendering of/ Evelyn Waugh at a/ youthful age/ T.C’ in the upper left corner, fine split into image at lower right edge, some minor rubbing and surface abrasions (framed)

Estate of Lord Berners, Faringdon House, Oxfordshire;

Sale. Christie’s, London, Interiors, including property from Faringdon House, Oxfordshire, 12th April 2018 (Lot 19)

⁂ Frederick Etchells, English artist and architect, was a contributor to the Omega Workshops and a breakaway collaborator with Wyndham Lewis setting up The Rebel Art Movement, which was later to transform into the Vorticists. Several of Etchells’ illustrations appeared in the issues of the literary magazine BLAST, but the artist later distanced himself from the group.

The auction is scheduled for 7 December. The estimated price is £1500-2000. Details for participation and a copy of the portrait are available here.

–A blogger on the website Chateau Lloyd has posted an essay comparing the two novel sequences Parade’s End by Ford Madox Ford and Evelyn Waugh’s Sword of Honour. The essay compares writing styles and characters in the books as well as their reflection of religious themes. Here’s the conclusion:

Parade’s End is often considered to have four books, but the last one in the series, The Last Post, is very different from the others.  It is essentially an extended experiment in stream of consciousness writing that purports to finish the tale by giving a post-war update to the story.

It is not an easy read and there is reason to believe that Ford himself was unhappy with the result.  When Graham Greene commissioned a reprint after Ford’s death, he purposefully omitted the final volume and declared the work to properly be a trilogy.

The first book in the series is the longest, and it is very difficult at times because it dives deep into social commentary and digs into a number of minor characters.  The next two are shorter and more focused.

Of the three, No More Parades is arguably the best, being a pure wartime story of Teitjens’ life at the front.

Though written over a much longer span of time, Sword of Honour works well as a cohesive whole and reads quickly.  As one would expect, the tone darkens as the war drags on and England suffers from hunger and bombing, but this is offset by Guy’s spiritual journey and also Waugh’s amusing take on how people ‘make out’ during the war.

There is no question that Waugh’s is the superior work, but the first three books of Parade’s End provide valuable insight into the Edwardian mentality and wartime Britain.

Anyone who has read both series or seen the TV adaptations will enjoy reading this thoughtful and well written essay. And those not familiar with one or the other may well be encouraged to fill in that gap.

–Novelist Joseph Connolly has written a short memoir of Kingsley Amis whom he met while running a book shop on Flask Walk in Hampstead in the 1970s. This appears as “Very Amis, very Hampstead” in a recent issue of The Critic. Amis had moved into the neighborhood shortly before their meeting and became a customer and friend. During one period when Amis was reviewing restaurants for Tatler, Connolly enjoyed accompanying him, not just for the food but for the entertainment value as well:

Although I very much enjoyed those lunchtime drinks — during which he would sometimes treat me to an edited selection of quite uproarious impersonations of such as Malcolm Muggeridge (his Evelyn Waugh, during which it looked as if he might burst a blood vessel, was one of the funniest things I have ever seen or heard) — still I had to gently explain that the bookshop was very much a one-man band, and that I couldn’t actually afford to close in the middle of the day. And his response to that quite astounded me: “I envy you,” he said. Was he being satirical? This most eminent novelist envied a bloke in a shop?

Joseph Connolly’s latest novel is entitled This is 64.

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