Shrove Tuesday Roundup

–The BBC has announced plans to release a collection of audio recordings of Jeremy Front’s radio adaptations of several works by Evelyn Waugh. This will include Brideshead Revisited and Decline and Fall as well as several others not identified specifically in the BBC announcement. Others may include Sword of Honour and Scoop which Front has also adapted for radio serials. The collection totals 15 hours of content so this may be everything by Waugh that Front has adapted for BBC radio.

–Emily Temple posting on has come up with a recommendation of 5 literary classics which should be adapted as high-school romantic-comedy films:

…after seeing the latest adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma, I decided it was time to rewatch Clueless, and let me tell you, it (mostly) holds up. And so I wondered: whence the high school-set, romantic-comedy adaptations of classic literary texts? They were all the rage there for a while, and the format has led to some truly great movies: Clueless, of course, being at the top of the list, not to mention 10 Things I Hate About YouEasy A, and Cruel Intentions, which are all also at the top of the list. Maybe Hollywood just needs some more ideas? In that case, I am here to help, with my totally un-screen tested, off the cuff, tongue in cheek ideas for how you could turn some fine literary classics into fine cinematic joyrides.

Among those she recommends for this project is one by Evelyn Waugh:

Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited (1945)

Easy: just move the whole story from Oxford to high school and show me an actor so attractive that he will believably not be bullied for carrying around a teddy bear and I am sold. Also we’ll need to update it so Sebastian and Charles live happily every after together—or at least only break up later in college!

She spends a bit more time describing the changes that would be needed to convert such other classics as The Great Gatsby, King Lear and Much Ado About Nothing.

–The Daily Mail has published a list of the top 50 audiobooks compiled by the Mail’s “event critics”. No. 35 is a recording of Brideshead Revisited:

35. Brideshead Revisited

Narrated by Jeremy Irons 11hrs 31mins

Irons shot to stardom after playing the young disillusioned painter Charles Ryder in the acclaimed 1981 TV adaptation of Waugh’s masterpiece. Here, he expertly plays all the characters in the wistful saga set against the backdrop of the decline of the English aristocracy just before the Second World War.

It falls in the list between 33. The Great Gatsby, 34. The Poems of T S Eliot and 36. Alice in Wonderland.

–The Daily Telegraph has printed a profile by Gavanndra Hodge of actress Kristin Scott Thomas in advance of the release of her new film The Military Wives. Her breakthrough role seems to have been in the successful 1988 adaptation of Waugh’s novel A Handful of Dust:

She is famous for her portrayals of self-possessed upper-class Englishwomen, passion percolating beneath a pristine surface; like Lady Brenda Last in A Handful of Dust, Katharine Clifton in The English Patient, and the immaculate, sharp-tongued Fiona in Four Weddings and a Funeral, quietly devastated because her love for Hugh Grant’s Charlie is unrequited […] She attended drama school in Paris, and met her future (now former) husband, François Olivennes, an obstetrician. Her first major film role wasn’t actually Brenda Last, but Mary Sharon, the posh totty in Prince’s 1986 film Under the Cherry Moon. The film was not a critical success, but it got her noticed. Then, aged 26, two days after her wedding to Olivennes ‘in a tent in a field with a rabbi and a priest’, she auditioned for A Handful of Dust, an adaptation of the Evelyn Waugh novel starring Anjelica Huston and Judi Dench.

The one-off film of Handful was produced and directed by the same team who made the 1981 Granada TV series of Brideshead Revisited: Derek Granger and Charles Sturridge.

–Columnist Ann Treneman in The Times includes a Waugh novel in her list of favorites:

Top of the book pile
I hardly ever go on Facebook but one of my friends has challenged me to post nine books that I love. What fun it is to beetle round the house, looking through the shelves. So far the list includes My Antonia by Willa Cather, Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates, Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz, Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop and Emily Dickinson’s poems. …

–Finally, the Guardian has an article in which Richard Godwin considers the extent to which a novelist deemed the spokesperson for a generation receives a benefit or a curse. This is in the context of his discussion of the second novel by Sally Rooney entitled Normal People:

Normal People has been greeted by readers, critics and booksellers alike as one of those novels that captures something ineffable about its age. The forthcoming BBC adaptation stretches its 266 pages to a decadent 12 episodes, a pages-to-minutes ratio that recalls the famous 1981 version of Brideshead Revisited, which spent as much time on the apparently incidental scenes in Evelyn Waugh’s novel (the whisky and water business on the ocean liner, for example) as it did on the central plot. Normal People is also a novel of tiny details and the beats of pleasure that come from noticing them: “Life offers up these moments of joy despite everything.”

Waugh has sometimes been deemed (though not in this Guardian article) as the spokesperson for the Bright Young People generation that came of age in the 1920s. This is based primarily on his novel Vile Bodies. He might just as well be considered the spokesperson for the 1980s Thatcher generation based on the popularity and influence of the 1981 TV adaptation of Brideshead Revisited. In neither case did his denomination as a spokesperson have any negative impact on Waugh as it seems to have done in the case of writers like J D Salinger and F Scott Fitzgerald, as discussed in the Guardian. Indeed, in the case of the Brideshead boom after the 1981 broadcast, Waugh’s reputation and popularity recovered from years of relative neglect.


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