Valentine’s Day Roundup

–The Corydon (Indiana) Democrat recommends an Evelyn Waugh short story as a selection appropriate to be read on Valentine’s Day. This is “Bella Fleece Gives a Party”. The story will help the reader to “remember friends, loved ones” as is expected on this day.

–The “Media Watch Dog” column in The Weekend Australian had this comment on a character in Scoop:

As avid readers will recall, in Media Watch Dog Issue 57 (11 June 2010) Matt Canavan drew attention to that part of Evelyn Waugh’s novel Scoop in which the snobbery of the leftie journalist Pappenhacker was revealed.

Waugh’s line was that a wealthy communist, university-educated chap named Pappenhacker believed that the best way to undermine the capitalist system was to be rude to the members of the proletariat. This would make them angry and help to bring about a revolution. Sandalista Snobbery Space is devoted to recording the snobbish views of the Pappenhackers of our day.

It probably helps to be Australian to understand the reference to “Sandalista Snobbery Space”.

–The TLS reviews four new books of or about nature writing that opens with this:

For nearly 200 years, beginning in the late eighteenth century, nature writing was the gentlemanly pursuit of country chaps with a mildly scientific bent. If we pass over the work of the sadists lurking in the reeds alongside T. H. White, Gavin Maxwell and Henry Williamson, much of the material was dull, footling and too easily mocked. Evelyn Waugh’s “questing vole” passing “feather-footed through the plashy fen” in Scoop (1930) is probably the most famous parody, but Saki skewered the form as early as 1911.

The review is by Sarah Hudson.

–Novelist Howard Jacobson has written an autobiography that will be published next month. This is entitled Mother’s Boy and the Guardian has published an excerpt. In the section dealing with his youth, Jacobson writes:

Can you die of others thinking you’re a fantasist? I thought I might. My fault, of course, for ever telling people I was working on a novel when I wasn’t. It didn’t help, either, that I was called Howard. Can you write a novel when you don’t have a novelist’s name? Howard Jacobson? I didn’t think so. Scott Fitzgerald. Virginia Woolf. Evelyn Waugh. Now, with those names you had a fighting chance. Even my father’s name had a writer’s ring. Max Jacobson – I could have been a writer of tough-guy Chicagoan prose had I been a Max.

–Writing in the Jesuit magazine America, James T Keane surveys the magazine’s history of publishing the writings of novelist Walker Percy. The reviewer is particularly interested in a little-read 1974 review by Percy of a book by Paul Horgan on the craft of writing. Here’s an excerpt, quoting from Percy’s review:

“Most writers, especially fiction writers, have their little eccentricities, lining up pencil and paper a certain way, but these are less apt to be signs of madness than a very human anxiety to preserve what Horgan calls ‘an induced and protracted absentmindedness’,” Percy writes. “Evelyn Waugh once reported that he thought Graham Greene a little strange because he had to run out in the street and wait for a car to pass with a certain combination of numbers on the license plate before he could get to work. But Waugh of all people should have had sympathy for the quailings, twitches and fits which are apt to befall a man trying to write a good sentence.” Zing!

Condé Nast Traveller has published a story about visiting Patrick Leigh Fermor’s house in rural Greece. This is by Artemis Cooper, Leigh Fermor’s biographer, and is entitled: “Inside a restored Greek home that’s now open to visitors”. It is headed by a statement that was apparently not written by the article’s author:

Writer Patrick Leigh Fermor’s many adventures included walking across Europe at 18 and becoming a resistance fighter. Now his restored Greek home, where Evelyn Waugh [sic] and Nancy Mitford once stayed, is open to guests – his biographer Artemis Cooper returns for a visit.

According to Cooper’s biography, construction of the house was not even started until 1965. It was completed in 1969.  Since Waugh died in 1966 when no habitable structure apparently existed, he could not have been a visitor. He would have been too frail in his final days even to make the arduous trip to the building site. Cooper does record a visit by Nancy Mitford in 1967 when there was apparently at least a partially completed structure (p. 338), but Waugh was by then not available to accompany her.  I do not believe Waugh ever visited Leigh Fermor at his earlier Grecian residences. No such visits are recorded by Cooper.  The two writers knew each other primarily through their common friendships with Nancy and Deborah Mitford, Diana Cooper (the biographer’s grandmother) and Ann Fleming. Waugh and Leigh Fermor were cordial but not close friends with each other.

UPDATE (21 February 2021): Mark McGinness has kindly noted that Artemis Cooper is Diana Cooper’s grand daughter. The text is amended accordingly.

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