Mid-May Roundup

–Nicholas Lezard, writing for the New Statesman opens his article on cold weather angst with this:

I was reading Evelyn Waugh’s first travel book, Labels, which for some inexplicable reason I had never got round to before, and I was barely a couple of pages in when he mentioned the Mediterranean seaboard. I was hit with a hammer-blow of longing to travel there, anywhere along there really, to sit in my shirtsleeves at a harbour café, a plate of freshly grilled sardines and a chilled carafe of the local white in front of me, sky-blue fishing boats bobbing gently. You know, the works.

–The religious/cultural website The Imaginative Conservative has posted an article by David Deavel about Waugh’s literary style, a difficult subject to write about. The article opens with this:

Evelyn Waugh understands that if a writer is to develop, he “must concern himself more and more with Style.” By approaching words with the attention and craft of a tailor, the literary artist not only communicates but also gives pleasure to others.

–Literary critic Laura Freeman has posted a brief appreciation of 2oth century artist Scottie Wilson. This appears in The Spectator:

Scottie has been called a ‘primitive’ or an ‘outsider’ artist. Hopeless terms, really. Ragged nets to catch a lot of queer fish. Maori bushmen are primitive, Henri ‘Douanier’ Rousseau is primitive, African carvings are primitive, the paintings at Lascaux are primitive, Alfred Wallis is primitive. All it means is: didn’t go to school, or didn’t go to the right school, or didn’t get into the salon, or didn’t play the game. […]

Evelyn Waugh had a dig at Scottie — or Scottie’s fans — in The Loved One. Sir Francis Hinsley, reading a copy of Horizon, complains to Dennis Barlow: ‘Kierkegaard, Kafka, Connolly, Compton-Burnett, Sartre, “Scottie” Wilson. Who are they? What do they want?’ Sir Francis points to a page: ‘Those drawings there. Do they make sense to you?’ No, says Dennis. No, says Sir Francis.

The Spectator has also posted a list by Stephen Arnell of “10 films about the upper classes” that he thinks might appeal to those who are enjoying the BBC’s current adaptation of Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love. These include 2 based on Evelyn Waugh novels:

Brideshead Revisited (2008). This is the film version that the article admits is “entirely superfluous compared to the excellent Granada series” from 1918. It is worth watching for the “pretty good” cast and the adaptation skills of Andrew Davies although lacking in the graphic depiction of what Waugh might have termed “Naughtiness”. The article also questions why with the BBC has started a remake of the series given these earlier efforts.

Bright Young Things (2003). This was Stephen Fry’s misfired attempt to adapt Vile Bodies. Again, a good cast but what worked on the page didn’t translate to the screen.

–The Daily Mail has a review of a new book entitled Elegy for a River by Tom Moorhouse. This is his account of a career studying river creatures in English habitats for Oxford University. Among the creatures he includes is one immortalized by Evelyn Waugh. The review opens with a reference to that:

William Boot, the hapless hero of Evelyn Waugh’s novel Scoop, famously observed in his nature notes column for the fictional Daily Beast: ‘Feather footed through the plashy fen passes the questing vole.’

That just shows how little Mr Boot really knew about voles. They are not feather footed and they do not quest but move with a sort of rapid waddle, says Tom Moorhouse, who knows more about the behaviour of the water vole than is entirely healthy.

As described in the book, these creatures are not doing very well, through no fault of Waugh.

–Finally, in this week’s “Weekend Essay” in The Times, Michael Henderson writes what may be the first of many pieces in recognition of Bob Dylan’s 80th birthday. He urges that Dylan be applauded for what he is: a great singer-songwriter and not for what he isn’t: a poet, philosopher or prophet. As to the latter, Henderson offers this:

He is not a prophet. “Don’t criticise what you can’t understand” made a big splash in the Sixties, when it was all too easy to see the times they were a-changin’. Evelyn Waugh, not known for revolutionary fervour, expressed something similar in Brideshead Revisited, 20 years before young people were encouraged to turn on and drop out. Dylan, to be fair, wasn’t a hippie either. He seems to have had no time for those charioteers of “the alternative society” who became bankers and bought agreeable homes in Connecticut.




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