The Loved One Meets the Wuhan Coronavirus

–A blogger posting as “Sapper” traces the influence of Waugh’s writing about Los Angeles in the post war 1940s to what may be the first of several New Yorker essays by English writer and satirist Geoff Dyer, now a resident of that city (more specifically, the beach suburb of Venice):

Roll Over, Evelyn Waugh — Geoff Dyer Finds Laughs & Humor In Our Own Plague Year

As this blogger read Geoff Dyer’s essay about living in the US during a pandemic and scanned Dyer’s descriptions and reactions, the blogger remembered reading another Brit’s reaction to US attitudes toward death, Evelyn Waugh (full name: Arthur Evelyn St. John Waugh) spent a brief post-war interlude (1945-1947) on a film project of one of Waugh’s novels, Brideshead Revisited. When the project collapsed, Waugh remained in Los Angeles and went on a tour of one of the most famous (or infamous) cemeteries in Southern California: Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Hollywood Hills, CA. The experience and several return visits to Forest Lawn, were the basis of Waugh’s British interpretation of death and funerals in the United States: The Loved One. And Geoff Dyer carries on the tradition of a British view of US attitudes toward death and dying. If this is (fair & balanced) macabre humor, so be it.

Waugh’s tenure in Los Angeles was much shorter than indicated in the blogpost. His visit lasted for about 6 weeks in February-March 1947. The Forest Lawn Memorial Park that Waugh visited was the original incarnation of that institution in Glendale. The Hollywood Hills branch opened after his trip, in 1952. Dyer’s New Yorker article appears in the March 23, 2020, issue of the magazine. Here are the opening lines, mentioning two other English writers (and later a French one), but not Waugh:

This might be the first installment of a rewrite of “A Journal of the Plague Year,” but it will be written in real time rather than with the benefit of the fifty-odd years of hindsight that Daniel Defoe was able to draw on. If all goes well—or very badly—it might also be the last installment, because although we’re only at the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, I’m close to the end of my tether. Physical effects lie in the future, but the psychic toll is already huge—and wide-ranging. At the top end: Am I going to catch it? This can be answered with a slight rephrasing of Philip Larkin’s famous line from “Aubade”: most things may never happen; this one probably will.

Dyer’s article is entitled “The Existential Inconvenience of Coronavirus” and may be viewed at this link.

–Recommendations for reading and viewing during the coronavirus shut-down continue to roll in:

The Daily Telegraph provides a list of 20 “best TV box-sets for self-isolating”. Each entry has a brief summary. Here’s the only Waugh box-set that is listed:

Brideshead Revisited

For pure escapism and nostalgia, what better screen spectacle to lose oneself in than Granada’s gorgeously lavish 1981 adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s novel? Jeremy Irons plays Charles Ryder, the Oxford student bewitched by the dysfunctional aristocratic family of his dissolute friend Sebastian Flyte (Anthony Andrews). Castle Howard in North Yorkshire stands in for the Marchmains’ palatial country seat, while a distinguished supporting cast is led by Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud and, of course, Aloysius the teddy bear.

Available on: BritBox, Amazon Prime Video or DVD (Collector’s Edition £27.99)

The Daily Mail has compiled its own streaming list that also includes Brideshead:

Brideshead Revisited BRITBOX

This 1981 adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s novel is perhaps the greatest costume drama of all time. Jeremy Irons is Charles Ryder, an undergraduate at Oxford who forms an intense friendship with hedonistic Sebastian Flyte (Anthony Andrews).

Flyte loathes his family but insists on taking Charles to their country estate ‘to meet mummy’, but it is Sebastian’s sister Julia (Diana Quick) who really catches his eye.

Laurence Olivier plays Lord Marchmain and John Gielgud is Charles’s snobbish, small-minded father. One series

— Michah Mattix’s “Prufrock” column, formerly in the Weekly Standard, is now in The American Conservative. Mattix:

asked readers to send me their favorite book (fiction or nonfiction, classic or contemporary) of the past five years. Boy, did you all deliver. Here’s the list, which I’ll continue to update over the next few days. Any comments that appear after the titles are from the readers who recommended the book (in some cases, slightly edited).

One of the books recommended is Waugh’s Decline and Fall.

–A webpage for marajuana lovers called leafly.com prepared “a list of 50 of our favorite stoner books. Whether you define a stoner book as a novel about the delights of cannabis, or a nonfiction work about the history of weed, we’ve got you covered.” One of those recommended is Scoop by Evelyn Waugh. How it meets the stated criteria isn’t explained, but perhaps some of the journalists managed to get stoned while on assignment. Hashish was no doubt available. Anyone recalling such an incident is invited to comment below.

 

 

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