Roundup: Parties, T-shirts and Statues

–The Financial Times has an article by Rosa Lyster on “What makes a great fictional party.” This is inspired by the party drought that was only broken only a few months ago:

…As well as people, music and a reason to celebrate, you need at least two or more of the following in combination: a highly anticipated guest, ideally a new person or someone who has been away for a long time; an inner sanctum for smaller groups to conduct private business — it’s best, though not essential, if these groups have only recently been formed; a core group; an intimidating element that must be won over; an enemy, ideally a common one, for purposes of bonding; uneven awareness of a potentially upsetting piece of information; a dedication to making hay in the shadow of gathering storm clouds; pockets of sexual tension; evidence of recruitment from different social universes; a mix of ages; people who need to fall in love with one another; and a collective recognition that it cannot last. Extra points if the party is in an unexpected venue or has involved a long or uncomfortable journey.

Not to be a traditionalist, but in addition to all this, the minor decencies of life must be observed. It’s best if the party takes place in the evening, and while drugs can, maybe even should, be present, they cannot play too central a role. In other words, the party cannot be about drugs, so no monologues from someone on amphetamines, and absolutely no stream of consciousness from someone who is hallucinating. Exceptions can be made for all other proscriptions but these ones are important.

These qualities feature in the set pieces of the great 20th-century party laureates — F Scott Fitzgerald, Evelyn Waugh, Henry Green. Not all of them at once but enough to produce the unpredictable conditions necessary for a party to work, for events to veer off in exhilarating directions, for people to decide they are in love with each other after 10 minutes, for a bomb to go off whose reverberations will be felt throughout the story. They are everywhere, when you know what to look for.

The article continues with a brief discussion of fictional parties from the works of five other authors, the most memorable of which are those in Alan Hollinghurst’s The Line of Beauty and Edward St Aubyn’s Some Hope. The highly anticipated guests in those were Mrs Thatcher and Princess Margaret, respectively.

–An enterprising online clothing company is offering T-Shirts for men, women and children that display the art work from the US first edition dust jacket of Waugh’s novel Brideshead Revisited. Here’s the link.

–The saga relating to the production status of the BBC/HBO TV adaptation of Brideshead Revisted continues in the entertainment trade press. This appeared in a recent edition of Variety:

A biopic of iconic actress Audrey Hepburn starring Rooney Mara is in the works at Apple, Variety has confirmed. Oscar-nominated “Call Me by Your Name” director Luca Guadagnino will helm the project, with Mara producing and “The Giver” co-writer Michael Mitnick penning the script.

Mara has been nominated for an Academy Award twice, for her work in 2011’s “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” and 2015’s “Carol.” She most recently starred in Guillermo del Toro’s “Nightmare Alley” alongside Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette and Willem Dafoe. Mara’s upcoming projects include Sarah Polley’s “Women Talking,” a drama centering on eight Mennonite women, which also stars Frances McDormand, Ben Whishaw, Claire Foy and Jessie Buckley.

Guadagnino recently wrapped production on his upcoming romantic horror film “Bones and All,” starring Taylor Russell and Timothée Chalamet. The Italian filmmaker also co-created, co-wrote and directed the 2021 HBO miniseries “We Are Who We Are.”

Several other trade journals have added comments similar to this one from

Guadagnino and Mara are also tentatively set to collaborate on a BBC miniseries adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s classic novel “Brideshead Revisited,” which would further reunite Mara with her “Carol” and “Nightmare Alley” co-star Cate Blanchett (assuming the cast comes together as intended).

–The British Library has posted an illustrated description of one of its holdings that has a Waugh connection. This is a pamphlet containing one of what are known as    T S Eliot’s Ariel poems–“The Journey of the Magi”. The pamphlets were published in 1927 by Faber and contained a total of 6 original Eliot poems published for the first time. There were also poems by other lesser known poets as well as illustrations by several contemporary artists such as Eric Gill, John Nash and Eric Ravilious. The artwork that is the focus of the BL article was by McKnight Kauffer (1890–1954). According to the BL posting, Kauffer:

…was an artist, graphic designer and friend of Eliot’s. His work was commissioned by a number of high-profile clients including the London Underground and British Empire exhibition. It became fashionable to the extent that, in Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited (1945) the fictional Charles Ryder remembers displaying one of Kauffer’s posters in his Oxford college rooms in the early 1920s. According to Eliot himself, Kauffer ‘did something for modern art with the public and something for the public with modern art’. His design on the cover abstracts the Magi into geometric shapes, all the more contemporary for the fact that they appear to be wearing bowler hats; the star which they follow in the story hangs above them in stylized form.

The cover artwork can be viewed in the photo of the pamphlet that accompanies the posting. Here’s a link. Charles Ryder’s poster by Kauffer is mentioned at p. 26 (first UK edition), 36 (rev. edition).

–The Bodleian Library has posted a copy of the detailed contents of a collection of letters received by Arthur Joseph Pollen (1899-1968). He was a sculptor and his connection with Waugh probably arose from the bust of Ronald Knox that Pollen created. The notice includes this:

Evelyn Waugh: 12 letters to Arthur Joseph Lawrence Pollen, 1946-1959. With letter from Mark Amory, Jun 1976; and accompanying notes by Louis Jebb [post 2017].

The correspondence (or at least some of it) is probably in connection with Waugh’s preparation and delivery of an address at the 1959 unveiling of Pollen’s bust of Knox at Trinity College, Oxford. According to Waugh’s Letters, this was entitled “The Quintessence of Oxford”. The text was published in The Tablet but has apparently not been included in any subsequent collection. Nor were any of Waugh’s letters to Pollen included in the 198o collection edited by Mark Amory, even though the Bodleian notice mentions Pollen’s communication with Amory. What may have engendered the Bodleian’s publication of the notice at this particular time is not explained.



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