–Novelist and biographer A N Wilson has published a detailed review of John Betjeman’s recently rebroadcast program Metroland. This appears in a recent issue of the Daily Mail. The BBC rebroadcast was mentioned in the previous Roundup. Wilson who was also acquainted with Betjeman and wrote a biography in his centenary year ranges in the Mail article over Betjeman’s whole career raising several interesting points. Here are the concluding paragraphs in which Betjeman’s sometimes fraught relations with Waugh are discussed:
One of Betjeman’s close friends was the novelist Evelyn Waugh, who was a fervent Catholic convert. Waugh had a bullying temperament and would sometimes bombard Betjeman with letters, outlining reasons for leaving the Church of England which Betjeman so loved.
Cruelly and brilliantly trying to undermine Betjeman’s Anglicanism, Waugh wrote: ‘You must not suppose that there is anything more than the most superficial resemblance between Catholics and Anglo-Catholics. They may look alike to you. An Australian, however well-informed, simply cannot distinguish between a piece of Trust House timbering and a genuine Tudor building; an Englishman however uncultured knows at once.’
Betjeman’s reply was equally brilliant. He did not attempt counter-arguments or rival claims. He simply wrote back: ‘I am beginning to find that there is a lot to be said for sham half-timber.
‘I have been visiting during the recent fine weather, some rich specimens in Metroland at Chesham and Amersham, sunk deep in bird baths and macrocarpa down lanterned drives.’
The superb Metro-Land film spells out this message. It is a celebration not merely of unappreciated places but of ordinary lives — of our lives.
It took a poet to remind us how grateful we should be for what we so often scorn or take for granted.
–Geoffrey Wheatcroft reviews several books relating to the recently troubled history of the Conservative Party in the UK. This appears in the New York Review of Books and is entitled “Bloody Panico.” Among the many topics covered is the troubled life of Boris Johnson. Wheatcroft brings Waugh into the story:
In one respect Johnson decidedly set the tone for the contemporary Tory Party that has been plagued by sexual and financial scandal. Sexual impropriety among politicians is nothing new or necessarily important. The pious William Gladstone supposedly said that he had known eleven prime ministers, seven of whom he knew to have been adulterers, which didn’t mean that only the other four were fit for office. And at the time of the Profumo affair in 1963, Evelyn Waugh wrote to a friend deriding the factitious indignation: “To my knowledge in my life time three prime Ministers have been adulterers and almost every cabinet has had an addict of almost every sexual vice.”
The quote is from a March 1963 letter to Daphne Acton.
Los Angeles is more than just a setting in the book—it is almost a character in its own right. From Evelyn Waugh to Elmore Leonard, legions of authors have tried to depict the city. Were there any writers in particular who inspired you?
The Loved One might be my favorite Waugh novel. But the two that do the best job, I think, of capturing Hollywood in a ruthlessly honest way are F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story collection The Pat Hobby Stories and Nathanael West’s The Day of The Locust. As readers probably know, they were written in the 1930s. I can’t claim this book is as good as those. But my aspiration was to tell a really good, juicy story that entertained and that had that same authenticity in portraying Los Angeles and the entertainment business as they are now.
–Finally, Barbara Charone, described as “one of the greatest Rock scribes of the Seventies” is interviewed in Esquire by Tom Parker Bowles about her new memoir. This is entitled Access All Areas: A Backstage Pass Through 50 Years of Music and Culture. Here’s an excerpt:
“Female rock critics were extremely rare back then ,” she says. The bouncers could never understand why a woman would come backstage for any other reason than being a groupie. But the access to stars at that time was amazing, “something that rarely happens these days”. She remembers a day in Oxford when Paul McCartney suddenly decided to grant an interview. All she had to hand was a copy of Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop, so she scribbled down McCartney’s quotes in the margins of the book. “Talk about life imitating art!”
Alas, she doesn’t tell which edition of Waugh’s novel she had to hand. If it was the then current Penguin reprint from 1971 or 1973, there can’t have been much space on which to scribble.