Roundup: Labels Reattached

–The weblog Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings contains a review of Waugh’s early travel book Labels. This is a thoughtful critique of an often overlooked book:

This is certainly no saccharine account of a trip round pretty places; if Waugh dislikes a place, he says so in no uncertain terms; and he’s clear-eyed about the squalid aspects of the trip, from the constant harrassment by locals exploiting the tourists, to the red-light entertainment mostly laid on just for the monied visitors. He’s often critical about tourism as a concept, seeing it as a kind of descendant of the Grand Tour, which he disses beautifully. […]

There is much discussion of art and architecture, which of course Waugh encounters in quantities wherever the cruise ship lands him, and even then many antiquities had been insensitively wrenched from their original locations. Much leaves him cold, and he’s not afraid to say so; however, when he’s moved by something his commentary goes into raptures about it, and the pages about his reactions to Gaudi’s architecture in Barcelona are fascinating and lyrical. However, he’s always ready to subvert the reader’s expectations and puncture pretentiousness…

There are several extended quotations, including the now familiar description of the sunset behind Mt Etna as “revolting”. The article concludes with this:

“Labels” turned out to be a delight; funny, thought-provoking, lyrical and entertaining, it was the perfect post-Christmas read. There were a couple of points where I was reminded that I was reading a book by somebody upper-class from the 1920s; the terminology is often not what we would use today, and I found his dismissal of much Oriental art baffling (although that “may” just come down to personal taste, as he didn’t dislike it all). Nevertheless, this was a wonderfully enjoyable and relaxing book; and as I believe he’s written more travel works, I’m going to have to do some careful consideration of what I’ll be spending the remainder of the book token on…

–An article in the National Catholic Register opens with this reference to a well-known scene in Brideshead Revisited:

In Evelyn Waugh’s novel Brideshead Revisited there is a dramatic scene in which Julia [one of the central female characters] breaks down as she is confronted by her brother Bridey with the sins of her life — sobbing, she admits how easy it is to know with clarity what the Church expects of us: ‘They know all about it; they’ve got it in black and white; they bought it for a penny at the church door. You can get anything there for a penny, in black and white, and nobody to see that you pay.’ The Catholic Truth Society Penny Catechism has been available at church doors for over a century, bringing the Good News (and the hard truths) to saints and sinners alike…

The article goes on to recount the history and present work of the Catholic Truth Society, now celebrating its 150th anniversary.

The Oldie compares the successful run of the BBC serial The Trial of Christine Keeler, relating to the Prufumo scandal of the 1960s, with Auberon Waugh’s recounting of another scandal. This is Jeremy Thorpe’s bungled attempted murder of a homosexual lover and Auberon’s subsequent challenge of Thorpe in a general election. This account is in the form of a compilation by Alexander Waugh of Auberon’s reporting of the matter, probably from his Private Eye diaries.

–The TLS recently reprinted a 1953 review by novelist and critic Julian Maclaren-Ross (who inspired the memorable character of X Trapnel in Anthony Powell’s novels Dance to the Music of Time). The review in the TLS was written on the occasion of Penguin’s simultaneous republication of five of P G Wodehouse’s early novels, spanning 15 years of his career. Maclaren-Ross wrote:

What strikes one immediately on re-reading these books is the widespread effect exercised by Mr Wodehouse’s style on writers of divergent schools, and particularly on those specializing in humorous dialogue: the trick of repetitive utterance, for example, so characteristic of Bertie Wooster at moments of stunned incredulity, is also marked in the early novels of Mr Evelyn Waugh and Mr Anthony Powell, among others: while the locutions of the imperturbable Psmith are echoed in the speech patterns of both Lord Peter Wimsey and Mr Albert Campion: at times, too, there is a suave acidity in Psmith’s tone not unlike that of Anthony Blanche in Brideshead Revisited.[…]

Although published three decades ago, Leave it to Psmith is remarkably undated…On the whole the book is less of a period piece than Vile Bodies, and surely the creation of Colonel Blount in the latter book, owes much to the old dodderer, Lord Emsworth […]

–In its latest Christmas Quiz, the TLS included three questions based on references to Waugh’s works:

7. The Right Glass.

Q. “Brandy’s one thing I do know about,” said Rex. “This is a bad colour. What’s more, I can’t taste it in this thimble.”/They brought him a balloon the size of his head. A. Brideshead Revisited.

8. A Second Breakfast

Q, “But I do want to bathe,” says Winnie. “You said I could bathe if you had two breakfasts.” A. A Handful of Dust.

16. According to whom is a man.

Q. “He ran the whole length of the quadrangle without his trousers. It is unseemly. It is more. It is indecent. In fact I am almost prepared to say that it is flagrantly indecent.” A. Decline and Fall.



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