Roundup: Mostly Books

–The Public Domain Review has posted an article and links to reproductions from a noted piece of Victoriana in the Waugh Collection at the Harry Ransom Center in Austin, Texas. Here’s the opening:

The novelist Evelyn Waugh was an inveterate collector. His interest was Victorian arcana — bric-a-brac unfashionable in his time, even gauche, and cheaply acquired. He had a soft spot for histrionic decorative objects, and furniture much larger than function demanded. By his own account, Waugh’s taste referenced the musty, redolent home of his three maiden aunts, a house that hadn’t been altered since 1870, which had entranced Waugh as a young child. Brownish oil paintings; mounted butterflies; glass cabinets of fossils; a taxidermized monkey on the bathroom shelf. “It all belonged to another age, which I instinctively, even then, recognized as superior to my own.”

In middle-age, Waugh turned his collector’s eye toward books, telling Life magazine in 1946 that he was now “collect[ing] old books in an inexpensive, desultory way”. Indeed, he amassed some 3500 volumes, all of which were transferred after his death to the Harry Ransom Center in Austin, Texas. Despite the size of Waugh’s library, the archive had no trouble designating its “single most curious object”. That distinction belonged without question to the Victorian Blood Book.

A similar article was mentioned in a previous post, and the Society’s own Richard Oram has spoken and written articles about the Blood Book as well. Richard was librarian at the HRC when a copy of the book was posted on the HRC ‘s website.

–Novelist Andrew Greer mentions Waugh in connection with his new book Less is Lost. Here’s an excerpt:

Q: So you didn’t go for the more vicious comedy of, say, an Evelyn Waugh?

A: The one Evelyn Waugh I like is called The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold, which I read while I was working on this book. It’s a fictionalization of a time when Waugh went on a cruise. and he mixed some of his doctor’s drugs by accident and started hallucinating. It’s bizarre but it’s funny and painful and it was really interesting because it wasn’t as caustic as his other books which I find unpleasant.

The new book is described by interviewer Christopher Bollen as “humorous and heartbreaking”. It is a sequel to Greer’s 2017 Pulitzer Prize winning novel Less. The full text of the interview appears in Interview Magazine.

–The New Statesman reviews a new book about the Huxley family (Thomas, Julian and Aldous). The book is entitled An Intimate History of Evolution and is written by Alison Bashford. In the review by John Gray, this appears:

…Aldous is the least interesting of the three [Huxleys]. Like Evelyn Waugh, he began by satirising the mores of his contemporaries in light, witty novels, then developed a concern with spirituality – though the faith to which he surrendered was less well-defined than Waugh’s. Like his pacifism, which was common among London’s intelligentsia, a watered-down Indian mysticism was popular in Hollywood. He is remembered for a single work of genius, Brave New World (1932)…

–Ben Macintyre, author of several books and film and TV scripts about spies is interviewed in the Irish Times. Here’s an excerpt:

A book to make you laugh?

It is very politically incorrect but Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop still makes me laugh. I read it once a year. “Feather-footed through the plashy fen passes the questing vole.” Every time I think my writing is getting a bit too lush and a bit too purple, I take another look at Scoop.

–The National Catholic Reporter mentions a literary anniversary overlooked by other publications. Here’s the opening section:

In June 1944, an unlikely inmate at a federal penitentiary in Minnesota passed the time by corresponding with a priest friend about the wonders and woes of clerical life. The prisoner was 27-year-old James Farl Powers: “Jim” to close friends and “J.F.” to the writers Evelyn Waugh, Donna Tartt and many other devoted fans who gushed about Powers’ oft-overlooked fiction as they would, in the words of critic Denis Donoghue, about “an idyllic village in an unfashionable part of France, not to be disclosed to the ordinary camera-flashing tourist.”

Powers’ first short story collection, Prince of Darkness and Other Stories, was published 75 ago, kicking off a celebrated career dedicated to the messy lives of Catholic priests: their pushy visitors, parish finances, and long, dark nights of the soul.

Waugh reviewed the book in 1949, apparently when the UK edition appeared.  The review was published in the Month and is reproduced in EAR. Waugh noted that “the shadows of Hemingway and Steinbeck lie over the work but not so heavily as to obscure the brilliant and determining quality which [John Lehmann, the book’s UK publisher] does not choose to notice. The book is Catholic.”  (EAR, p. 373).

Waugh and Powers became friends and met each other on Waugh’s 1949 lecture tour to the US (requiring a substantial detour to St Paul between St Louis and Springfield, IL) as well as during Power’s periods of residence in Ireland. The imprisonment mentioned in the NCR article was related to Powers’ declaring himself a conscientious objector in WWII. Powers’ stories (as well as his two novels) remain in print in the US market thanks to New York Review Books. Here’s a link.

–Finally, another Roman Catholic journal, Crisis Magazine, has published a brief essay by Joseph Pearce highlighting the religious themes in Waugh’s novel Brideshead Revisited. Here’s a link to that essay.



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