Roundup: Kitsch, Photos and a War

–Last week, a group of Waugh scholars convened by to listen to and discuss a talk by Professor Taichi Koyama on the subject Waugh and Kitsch. Here’s a description of Prof. Koyama’s presentation:

Evelyn Waughs novels, from the earlier secular comedies to the Guy Crouchback trilogy with its deep concern with Gods grace and the vocation of each individual, always grappled with the disordered chaos of the modern world. All of them focalise on rootlessness, dislocation and the loss of temporal and spatial contexts. This presentation seeks to add another angle to the preceding analyses of such elements, by applying the idea of kitsch to two major works of Waughs, A Handful of Dust and Brideshead Revisited

Prof. Koyama has translated some of Waugh’s work into Japanese. Hopefully, the results of the online conference, including Prof. Koyama’s paper, will be published in some readily accessible forum.

–In the current issue of the London Review of Books, Susannah Clapp discusses the work of mid 20th century photographer Yevonde which was recently on display at the National Portrait Gallery. Among the subjects of her photography was Evelyn Waugh. Here is an excerpt from the article:

…Her range of work is handsomely illustrated and sympathetically quizzed in Clare Freestone’s Yevonde: Life and Colour (NPG, £40), written to accompany the exhibition at the revivified National Portrait Gallery. On one page, the scarcely arrested vivacity of a still life in which a toadstool looks like a flying saucer. On another, the daftness of the cover for Woman and Beauty, where a woman with puffed sleeves, a straw hat and a cigarette-holder languidly shells peas. Some of the least flamboyant images are the most disconcerting. Evelyn Waugh’s face is squashed into a tiny picture frame between a potted plant and a copy of Vile Bodies. Double portraits of couples, with back-to-back profiles, raise the question of whether they are fusing or running away. One of these was of Yevonde and her husband, the playwright Edgar Middleton, who called his autobiography I Might Have Been a Success. She also produced self-portraits in which the camera looks like a metallic face. In 1968, she pictured herself in perky miniature, beside a massive studio camera. She is shackled to the great beast by a cable, which could also be a lifeline…

The NPG exhibition has alas concluded but the book is apparently available.

–The Washington Post reviews a book by Scottish professor Andrew Pettegree. Here’s a description:

…In “The Book at War,” Pettegree, a professor of modern history at Scotland’s University of St Andrews, explores how printed media has shaped people in relation to conflict. Books and war, he argues, are closely intertwined. Books have conditioned readers to expect and subsequently support war. They have been vectors of ideology and plunder for victors. Yet they have also represented great solace and solidarity in times of combat, for civilians taking cover and for soldiers on the front lines. […]

Pettegree clearly possesses an exceptional breadth of knowledge, in addition to a skill for nuanced narrative and convincing arguments. His accounts are often fascinating, such as his description of how modern spycraft relied on librarians, books and academics. He tells us of banned books entering Germany in the backpacks of Allied soldiers, and of “pudgy” and “insubordinate” Evelyn Waugh petitioning his commanding officers for leave to write what would become “Brideshead Revisited.” (Waugh was given the leave, in part because he was so insufferable.) …

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