Late September Roundup

–A recent issue of the Financial Times carries a story of the impact of Evelyn Waugh and his contemporaries on the latest mens fashions. Here’s an excerpt:

This season, menswear has embraced the gimlet-tinged mood of Cecil Beaton’s diaries, the roman à clefs of Evelyn Waugh and Nancy Mitford, and the posturing of their 1920s peers. You can see it in the lace and exaggerated puffed sleeves at Simone Rocha, the Genet-like Marseille sailors at SS Daley and the flamboyant tailoring at McQueen and Peter Do. Most of Dries Van Noten’s collections feature pyjama silks that Beaton’s subjects would have loved. …

Designer and photographer Cecil Beaton has frequently revisited the 1920s and the so-called Bright Young Things, as documented by Beaton, Mitford, Waugh, and the tabloids of the day. “Those androgynous, luxurious and often queer-coded self-representations resonate with today’s menswear designers,” says Jay McCauley Bowstead, lecturer in cultural and historical studies at the London College of Fashion, and author of Menswear Revolution: The Transformation of Contemporary Men’s Fashion. “The famous Cecil Beaton photograph from 1927 of Stephen Tennant, Rex Whistler and the Jungman sisters dressed in a joyous simulacrum of 18th-century dress in Tennant’s garden in Wiltshire comes to mind.”…

The story by Mark O’Flaherty is entitled “How fashion got stuck in the Waugh zone” and is headed by a copy of the painting of the 26-year old Waugh by Henry Lamb.  It also contains several photos illustrating his point. Here’s a link.

–Writer Jonathan Raban’s final book entitled Father and Son has been published and is reviewed by Carl Hoffman in the Washington Post. Although Raban (a distant relative of Evelyn Waugh) didn’t like to be labelled a “travel writer”, he wrote several of his best books about his travels:

…The greats of travel literature were products of one very small island that ruled for centuries over an empire upon which the sun never set, and out from which a tiny population of erudite, upper-class White men embarked. The conceit of Raban in Arabia and all those men he was emulating — from Robert Byron to Peter Fleming, V.S. Pritchett to Graham Greene and Evelyn Waugh, who infamously traveled “when the going was good” — was civilized man among the savages. They weren’t all British or even men, of course. “I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills,” is one of the most iconic lines in travel literature, but “Out of Africa,” by Isak Dinesen, is what it is: a lyrical, romantic homage to colonialism by a rich baroness in which the indigenous Kikuyu — “my Natives,” as she calls them — are childlike and her 6,000-acre farm wasn’t land appropriated from them by force…

Raban’s book intersperses memories of his father, whom Raban first encountered at age three due to his father’s war service, with his own last days in which he suffered from debilitating health problems.

–Rupert Murdoch’s recent announcement of his retirement has elicited from the press reminders of a Waugh character. For example, an article by Adrian Wooldridge on the Bloomberg news service has appeared in several papers. Here’s an excerpt from the Washington Post:

…Murdoch is the only contemporary figure who can be spoken of in the same breath as the great press barons of yesteryear: Alfred Harmsworth, the Napoleon of Fleet Street who invented the tabloid; William Randolph Hearst, who perfected the arts of sensationalism, salaciousness and war-mongering; and Lord Beaverbrook, who competed with Hearst in his enthusiasm for blurring the line between reporting the news and making it. If Hearst gave the world Orson Wells’ Citizen Kane, and Beaverbrook Evelyn Waugh’s Lord Copper, Murdoch gave it Logan Roy, the foul-mouthed master of family dysfunction. …

And this appeared in the Boston Herald, a paper Murdoch had rescued from failure:

…In the late 1980’s, as he began expanding into TV, Murdoch would fly into Boston just before Christmas and host a fancy dinner at a nice steakhouse for the top people at the Herald. I remember one year he told us not to worry about all these stories that he was losing interest in print. “The backbone of any media company is content,” he said. “And print people are the only ones who can produce the proper content. So this corporation will always be based in print.” We believed him — up to a point, to use the expression Lord Copper’s minions would use to agree with, sort of, their media mogul boss’ disassembling in Evelyn Waugh’s classic Fleet Street novel, Scoop. …

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