–Several publications have posted recommended binge reading and watching for the homebound during the Wuhan coronavirus shut-down. Many of these include books or adaptations of books by Waugh:
—The Guardian produced a list of 50 of the “Best Binge Watches: From Buffy to Brideshead.” This was compiled from recommendations of a team of TV writers. Here’s the one for Brideshead:
49. Brideshead Revisited
Amazon Prime Video/BritBox
They don’t, in so many senses, make them like this any more. ITV’s 1981 version of Evelyn Waugh’s 1945 novel was, with its 11-hour running time, not far off granting the wish of those viewers who like dramatisations to include every word of the book. That meant the world Waugh conjured – fading nobility, eccentric inter-war hedonism and grassy afternoons at a perfectly proper Oxford University – could be allowed to completely envelop the viewer. In the days before the big US box-set beasts, Brideshead Revisited was routinely cited as the best TV show of all time. In part, that was due to the exquisite score, the sky-high production values and the brilliant cast. But its appeal has always been mainly as a door to a fantasy of a bygone world. That’s now perhaps more valuable than ever. Jack Seale
—The Sunday Times also has a list of 50 TV serials recommended in its “Coronavirus Lockdown: Self-Isolation Special”. This was compiled by Helen Hawkins. Under the “Period” heading this one appears:
Even more than the sets and costumes, Evelyn Waugh’s dialogue and characters sing. How many series offer cameos by Laurence Olivier and John Gielgud?
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—Forbes Magazine lists 8 books to take you away from your quarantine to somewhere overseas:
When it comes to the foibles and absurdities of the upper-crust (and often under-behaved) British land-owning aristocrats, there is no writer as masterful as Evelyn Waugh. And of all his varied and accomplished writings, there is no novel more instantly absorbing (and impossible to resist) as Brideshead Revisited. His depiction of privileged boyhood is a classic, and you will find yourself rooting for its protagonist as he falls within a very dissolute, very English lifestyle. In the words of Waugh: “You never find an Englishman among the under-dogs except in England, of course.” Expect many more one-liners to follow.
—At least one recommendation mentions a Waugh novel other than Brideshead. This appears in the Greater Manchester online newspaper mancunianmatters.co.uk and is entitled “Ignoring coronavirus: A cultural guide”. It is written by Emma Morgan, and this particular section starts with a Jane Austen novel:
Although a trip to the cinema is probably off the cards, Autumn de Wilde’s new adaptation of [Jane Austen’s Emma] will also be available to view at home from Friday. This film is an elegant and picturesque interpretation of the grace and wit of Austen’s prose, which is sure to have a calming effect on any viewer. The reassuring softness of Emma is echoed in the style of novelists Elaine Dundy and Evelyn Waugh. The blasé heroine of Dundy’s The Dud Avocado, Sally Jay Gorce, and the hapless Paul Pennyfeather, protagonist of Waugh’s Decline and Fall, seem to exist in some sort of comedic vacuum, where no action or decision has any real consequence on anything.
—The Australian issued a list of books to read in “self-isolation”. Among these is Brideshead Revisited as well as the Book of Revelations, W G Sebald’s Austerlitz and Virginia Woolf’s Jacob’s Room.
–In another of its “Top 10 Books” columns, the Guardian lists books about boarding schools. This was compiled by James Scudamore whose new novel, English Monsters, “is about a group of friends who meet at a boarding preparatory school at the age of 10, and whose experiences there resound inescapably in their lives over the next 30 years. […] Everyone at boarding school craves superpowers, because it’s the most obvious response to the powerlessness. But you don’t have them.” One of those on Scudamore’s “Top 10” list is Waugh’s Decline and Fall:
4. Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh
Sent down from Scone College, Oxford for indecent behaviour after his trousers are stolen by a drunken member of the Bollinger Club, Paul Pennyfeather is exiled to teach at a purgatorial boarding school in Wales. On sports day, the hurdles have been burned for firewood and are replaced by five-foot-high spiked railings, and the starting pistol is Philbrick the butler’s service revolver, which ends up being discharged into the heel of Lady Circumference’s son, Lord Tangent. Among its many delights is the novel’s acknowledgement of the fact that teachers at boarding school often seem as perplexed as the pupils as to how they came to be in such a place.
–The global fashion and travel magazine Lucire has posted on its website an article from issue #41 entitled “The Land of the Giants” by guest contributor George Rush. He writes about his recent trip to Guyana in advance of changes likely to be wrought in that country by revenues from the oil exploitation that is just beginning. As part of his equipage he
…brought along a copy of Ninety-Two Days, Evelyn Waugh’s amusing diary of his 1933 trek into this country’s wilderness (and a template for his novel, A Handful of Dust). Before embarking on his ‘journey of the greatest misery,’ Waugh had strolled around Georgetown, finding that its ‘main streets were very broad, with grass and trees down the centre.’ And so they still were—plaited with canals, to drain a city that lies three feet below sea level at high tide. (One more incentive to pay attention to climate change!) Georgetown was bigger now—population: about 200,500—and probably tattier, due to a chronically depressed economy. But much of what Waugh saw remained.
The web post is accompanied by photography, some of which is quite stunning.