Bank Holiday/Memorial Day Roundup

–Novelist Kevin Kwan was recently interviewed in LitHub. This was on the occasion of last week’s issuance of his latest novel Lies and Weddings. Here’s the opening:

Kevin Kwan’s much anticipated new novel, Lies and Weddings, is out today [21 May 2024], so we asked him a few questions about his favorite books to read, recommend, and give as gifts.

Q. Which books do you reread?

A. Evelyn Waugh’s novels are a perennial favorite of mine, especially Brideshead Revisited and Decline and Fall. To me they just get deeper and funnier with each reading, and you really get to appreciate not only what a genius satirist he was, but also how beautiful his writing was and how he evoked a sense of place. I also love re-reading Dominick Dunne’s books. I read People Like Us when it was first released in the late 1980s, and his glamorous depictions of New York society was one of the things that lured me to move there myself…

–An article in Vogue considers the tendency of fashion trends to become repetitive. Here’s an excerpt:

…The interesting thing is that we may now actually enjoy being less individual in the way we dress. “We’ve lived through the emergence of a super granular globalisation. We’ve got used to it, and now we take comfort in the presence of sameness and even desire it,” Chayka says. His thinking is that our collective longing for a certain kind of sameness is tagged to trend fatigue, adding that you can only get so far ahead of the herd before the herd catches up, then overwhelms you, and therefore it’s easier to succumb to the tide. But isn’t social media simply amplifying behaviour that’s underpinned real-life social circles for decades, if not centuries?

New York-based British fashion curator Shonagh Marshall points to Vile Bodies, Evelyn Waugh’s 1930 novel about London’s bright young things. The protagonist, Adam, a columnist reporting on the scene’s hedonistic affairs, begins to invent fashion trends for his own amusement. “When he shares that the set are wearing black suede shoes with their tuxedos, fashionable young men run out to buy black suede shoes, but he’s later fired when he tries to start a fad on bottle-green bowler hats, as it’s deemed a step too far,” she says via text. “The scenario is entirely satirical, but it’s an interesting depiction of how trends caught on nearly a century ago.” …

The Spectator has an article by Alexander Larman entitled “The sad decline of Oxford.” It opens with this:

The cliché about Oxford – and as a resident of the city, I have skin in the game here – is that it’s the most beautiful city in Britain. Think of all the writers and poets who have rhapsodised about its glories, from Evelyn Waugh immortalising (some would say fossilising) it in Brideshead Revisited to Matthew Arnold’s famous description of it in his poem ‘Thyrsis’ as ‘that sweet city with her dreaming spires/She needs not June for beauty’s heightening’. It has more Grade I listed buildings in its centre than anywhere of a similar size and has innumerable architectural wonders. The incomparable Radcliffe Camera stands at its heart – often described as the most striking public building in England. So why is so much of Oxford being not merely neglected, but positively ruined?

I’m with Bill Bryson on the besmirching of Oxford. In his Notes from a Small Island, Bryson wrote despairingly:

“You tell me that it is one of the most beautiful, well-preserved cities in the world? I’m afraid not. It is a beautiful city that has been treated with gross indifference and lamentable incompetence for far too long, and every living person in Oxford should feel a little bit ashamed. The result is aesthetic impoverishment for both Oxford’s residents and visitors alike.”

Well, I don’t just feel shame, Bill – I feel a growing sense of anger. Walk round the historic centre of Oxford today, and jostling with the (admittedly wonderful) colleges and north Oxford mansions are eyesores so unpalatable, so wrong that it is hard to believe that any architect had designed them. Or indeed that any right-thinking institution or individual could ever have commissioned them in the first place…

There follows a photo of a new building on Cornmarket that is offered as example of the poor architectural design he is ashamed of.  I would have to say that it’s not as bad as he makes out unless he wants new buildings to copy the antique styles of those surrounding them, producing a sort of Disneyfication of Oxford.

Arab News En Francais has a story about the relations between Armenians and their Arab neighbors to the south. Here’s an excerpt (translation by Google):

…The Armenians were famous builders. Indeed, Sinan Pasha, the great architect of the Ottoman Empire, is said to be of Armenian origin. Many within the diaspora have carved out a niche for themselves as middlemen, translators, bankers and merchants. One of these characters, a certain Youkoumian, is the anti-hero of Evelyn Waugh’s comic novel ” Black Mischief , ” set in a fictional Ethiopia in the 1930s…

BBC Radio 4 Extra have announced the rebroadcast of their 4-episode adaptation of Brideshead Revisited from 2003 (Waugh’s centenary year). This will start on 14 June. Here are the details:

Midway through the Second World War, a disillusioned Captain Charles Ryder finds himself posted to a remote country retreat.

It’s Brideshead Castle, scene of the happiest years of his young, impressionable life and the beginnings of his friendship with Sebastian Flyte – whose presence will forever haunt him.

Starring Ben Miles and Jamie Bamber.

Evelyn Waugh’s most famous novel of life, love and a forgotten era.

Dramatised in four parts by Jeremy Front.

Charles Ryder …… Ben Miles
Sebastian Flyte …… Jamie Bamber
Julia …… Anne-Marie Duff
Cordelia …… Abby Ford
Brideshead …… Toby Jones
Boy Mulcaster …… Tom Smith
Nanny Hawkins …… Ann Beach
Jasper …… Martin Hyder
Anthony Blanche …… Geoffrey Streatfeild
Hooper …… Andrew Wincott
Collins …… Scott Brooksbank
Mr Ryder …… Benjamin Whitrow

Music by Neil Brand

Director: Marion Nancarrow

First broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in March 2003.

 

 

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