Roundup: From Party Going to Boredom

–A recent issue of Financial Times contains a “Weekend Essay” on the return of the party, to London and New York at least. This is by Alex Bilmes who is editor of Esquire. After reminiscing about how party going shut down during the Covid pandemic, Bilmes notes how things began to change in September:

If socialising and entertaining hasn’t quite returned to pre-pandemic levels, then certainly we have come a long way in a short period. In the past month I’ve been to restaurants, and concerts, and the ballet, and the theatre, and the cinema, and the pub, and other people’s houses. And parties, I have been to parties. Book parties, launch parties, dinner parties, leaving parties, birthday parties, office parties, after-parties, after-after-parties.

A gradual build up in party going during September-October is then described, and the article concludes with this:

“Masked parties, Savage parties, Victorian parties, Greek parties, Wild West parties, Russian parties, Circus parties, parties where one had to dress as somebody else, almost naked parties in St John’s Wood, parties in flats and studios and houses and ships and hotels and night clubs, in windmills and swimming-baths, tea parties at school where one ate muffins and meringues and tinned crab, parties at Oxford where one drank brown sherry and smoked Turkish cigarettes, dull dances in London and comic dances in Scotland and disgusting dances in Paris . . . ”

That, as every well-read reveller surely knows, is Evelyn Waugh, from Vile Bodies, his effervescent satire on the Bright Young Things, those libertines of the 1920s. Our present decade, you will remember if you search your dimmest and most distant memories, was heralded, a scant two years ago, as a likely rerun of the Roaring Twenties. Like latter-day Daisies and Jays, we were all set to dance ourselves silly, high on fizz. So far, it hasn’t worked out that way. But there is time. Most decades don’t really get going, don’t become fully themselves, until they are well under way. As I prepared to press “send” on this story, my phone buzzed with a WhatsApp from my friend Laura. It was a photo of her as a child beneath the sentence: “Join me for my belated 50th (Plus One Year).” Then, the details: a famous Soho nightspot, next Friday, from 6pm until whenever. I replied succinctly: “Bring it on.”

–Craig Brown in the Mail on Sunday reviews a new book by historian Jane Ridley, George V: Never a Dull Moment. The review opens with this:

Who could have imagined a biography of King George V would share its name with an album by Rod Stewart?

Of course, the title is a bit of a tease. For years, the Queen’s grandfather has been regarded as deadly dull. Even his official biographer, Harold Nicolson, privately considered him ‘a stupid old bore’.

Tommy Lascelles, latterly the King’s assistant private secretary, agreed that ‘He WAS dull, beyond dispute…’ before adding, in a phrase that gives this book its title, ‘but my God, his REIGN (politically and internationally) never had a dull moment’.

I suppose you could argue that George V carried his dullness to such a peak that it became interesting.[…]

Evelyn Waugh once observed that the presence of Royalty was ‘as heavy as thunder in the drawing room’.

The quote comes from Vile Bodies, Chapter Eight.

–A Daily Mail weblog (mailplus.co.uk) has posted a story by Liz Jones entitled “It’s true you can laugh a woman into bed – so give me a call, Ricky Gervais!” See link. After considering how many men she knows who are funny enough to be seductive, she concludes:

There aren’t even many funny male writers. Clever – William Boyd, Evelyn Waugh – but not self-deprecating and tragic and therefore truly funny. Jack Lemmon is an exception, both handsome and funny. I would force him to make me spaghetti using a tennis racket (The Apartment) and repeat, ‘And bring your yacht!’ (Some Like It Hot) over and over again.

Real humour comes out of pathos, of being able to admit you are ridiculous, a failure, depressed (Tony Hancock, Leonard Rossiter et al.) and not conventionally sexy at all. And not many men are brave enough to want to do that.

The Spectator has posted its “Books of the Year” from the December Spectator World edition. Madeleine Kearns (who is a staff writer at the National Review) has chosen as one of her three selections Waugh’s Edmund Campion: A Life. She explains that the book “is as gripping and eloquent as any of his novels–good enough even to inspire a fondness for Jesuits.” I couldn’t find that selection in the UK version of the magazine, and Kearns has cited a US edition from Ignatius Press that is probably not available in the UK. The Complete Works of Evelyn Waugh edition from OUP is eagerly awaited.

–The National Catholic Register has posted a brief article on Waugh’s final wishes. This was, according to the article: “I should like people in their charity to pray for my soul as a sinner.” After a brief discussion of the circumstances of Waugh’s death, the article addresses the most frequent sin of which Waugh would likely have been guilty: sloth (sometimes referred to, according to the article, as acedia or ennui, which is usually, in my experience, rendered into English as boredom):

Call it a weariness with life, or just plain boredom. In Work Suspended, Waugh’s only unfinished novel, the narrator of the story says of another character that he was “still smarting with the ruthless boredom of my last two or three meetings with him.” Ruthless boredom. Now there’s a combination of words which only a serious sufferer of the malaise could put together.

I am confident that if one searched diligently there would be other sins that might be addressed but perhaps it is fair to say that this is the one that would have been most prevalent.

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