Roundup: From Goldfinger to What’s Become of Waring?

–The Guardian has announced the death earlier this month of actress Margaret Nolan (1943-2020). She had

…a noticeable role in the Beatles film A Hard Day’s Night (as the girl accompanying Wilfrid Brambell in a casino), and the James Bond film Goldfinger, as the masseuse Dink. Nolan also appeared in Goldfinger’s celebrated title sequence, wearing a gold bikini and with images projected on her skin – though in the film itself it was Shirley Eaton who played Jill Masterson, the girl smothered to death by gold paint.

Later, she began to appear in TV films and was given a part in the 1981 Granada adaptation of Brideshead Revisited. She was Effie, one of the “dancehall girls” picked up by Sebastian, Charles and Boy Mulcaster at Ma Mayfield’s (Book One, Chapter V). Indeed, Effie in the novel was Boy’s alleged favorite from previous visits to the Mayfield establishment, but she failed to recognise him on this later occasion. According to the Guardian, the portrayal of Effie was one of the last screen roles in which Nolan appeared before she turned her attention to political theatre and the visual arts. She was 76. R. I. P.

–William Boyd was interviewed in a recent issue of the New Statesman:

Q. What would be your Mastermind specialist subject?

A. I’m one of those people who knows a little bit about a lot of things – I don’t really have a niche area of expertise. Postwar British artists, perhaps. Or the life and work of Evelyn Waugh.

I’m afraid TV comedian Russell Kane may have already played the Evelyn Waugh card on Mastermind.  Perhaps there is enough material there for another round.

–Another remake of P G Wodehouse has been published. This is reviewed in The Critic by Alexander Larman. It is written by Ben Schott (his second example of a Wodehouse homage novel) and is entitled Jeeves and the Leap of Faith. According to Larman:

…the book is a combination of the old and new, done with panache and wit. There is a plot about Bertie attempting to save the Drones’ Club from financial ruin by organising a complex series of bets that could have emerged from the pages of any of Wodehouse’s novels, but, just as Schott’s earlier book touched on darker and more dramatic subjects than the originals would have ventured, so this one strays into less frivolous territory.

One of the reasons these Wodehouse homage novels succeed is credited  by Larman to Evelyn Waugh who:

…famously said, “Mr. Wodehouse’s idyllic world can never stale. He will continue to release future generations from captivity that may be more irksome than our own. He has made a world for us to live in and delight in.” Nobody has ever sat down to read about the adventures of Jeeves, Bertie, Bingo Little, Gussie Fink-Nottle, the terrifying Aunt Agatha and Roderick Spode (to say nothing of his black short-wearing followers) and expected gritty social realism.

Harper’s Magazine has a long review by Christopher Beha of William Gaddis’s first two novels: The Recognitions and J R.  These have been reprinted recently by New York Review Books as NYRB Classics. Beha explains at some length about why these books have been deemed “difficult” by readers.  At one point he compares Gaddis to Waugh:

Where the much remarked-upon “difficulty” that plagues The Recognitions has to do with its content—the untranslated chunks of foreign languages, the range of esoteric references—J R’s is formal: 770 pages of mostly unattributed dialogue, with no chapter breaks and little in the way of exposition or scene setting. But in both cases, the challenge is exaggerated. A good deal of The Recognitions’ learnedness is there for effect. One need not know Hungarian or the works of Athanasius to understand or enjoy the book. As for J R, Gaddis borrowed its polyphonic form—which perfectly fits a book about the absence of objective values that might otherwise provide a proper context for our lives—from Waugh and Ronald Firbank, neither a writer considered unwelcoming to readers, and like them he uses it to great comic ends, piling on misunderstandings and miscommunications. Gaddis has an incredible knack for the cadence of spoken English, and once a reader catches the rhythm of the book the difficulties largely disappear.

–The Quarterly Review has an essay by Bill Hartley on the art of writing biography. This is entitled “The Lives of Others” and contains this comment relevant to our remit:

Whilst an on-form [Sir Richard] Burton might be the ideal fantasy dinner party guest, Evelyn Waugh probably wouldn’t feature. Even HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother discovered how obnoxious he could be. This incident and many others are recounted in Selina Hastings’ Evelyn Waugh: A Biography (1994). The author manages to keep us consistently interested in a man whom one reviewer described as a ‘miserable rotter’. Waugh of course wasn’t the only ‘swine who could write well’ but the author manages to salvage some of the fun which can be found in his writing as she recounts his appalling snobbery, and often self-inflicted disasters. Out of his largely undistinguished military career came the wonderful Sword Of Honour trilogy. The Army, glad to see the back of him, gave him leave (in the midst of the Second World War!) to write Brideshead Revisited. Were it not for this biography then the best advice might be to experience Waugh only through his own writings.

–Finally, Duncan McLaren has posted another article (entitled “What’s Become of Waugh?”) in his series comparing the writings of Evelyn Waugh and Anthony Powell. In this, he traces the inter-relations between the two writers and Duckworths, the publishers of Waugh’s 1930s nonfiction, up to a point, and where Powell worked in a menial position. McLaren explains how Duckworths, through bad management, lost out on Waugh’s fiction and, ultimately, on his nonfiction as well. He also adds an original and interesting analysis of how Powell comes to portray this saga in his 1929 novel What’s Become of Waring?. It makes a good story and is an entertaining way to learn about the publication details of both authors’ early writings. McLaren also adds to the story with his usual colorful illustrations of the books (mostly with dustjackets) he is writing about.


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