Yes, You Have No Bananas

The Toronto Globe and Mail has an opinion article entitled: “Shakespeare’s children: Should artists have kids?” This is by writer Tom Rachman (best known for his novel The Imperfectionists) and opens with this:

After years of grey deprivation during the Second World War, the British celebrated victory in yellow: Each child was to receive a banana. Among the lucky kids were the offspring of the novelist Evelyn Waugh, who first explained to his kin how to prepare this exotic delicacy: Peel it, then slice, add a drizzle of cream, a dazzle of sugar. At which point, he devoured all three bananas “before the anguished eyes of his children,” as one bitterly recalled in adulthood.

The story is part of the Wavian apocrypha and is recorded in Auberon Waugh’s autobiography Will This Do?, p, 67. The bit about his father’s explaining to the children how a banana is eaten and demonstrating how to peel and slice it is not in Auberon’s version. The article goes on to examine other examples of artistic parental misbehavior from Dickens to V S Naipaul (who had no children but in their absence behaved abominably toward his first wife) but concludes that there may be exceptions.

Posted in Auberon Waugh, Evelyn Waugh, Humo(u)r, Newspapers, World War II | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Waugh Exhibit in Hampstead Museum

The Hampstead Museum at Burgh House has announced the opening of a small exhibit “on the landing” relating to Evelyn Waugh. Here’s a description from the museum’s website:

Evelyn Waugh, the distinguished twentieth century writer, grew up in North End Road, on the boundary between Golders Green and Hampstead.  With his father, the publisher Arthur Waugh, he attended the newly opened church of St Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead Garden Suburb, and came under the influence of its flamboyant and outspoken young vicar, Basil Bourchier. In later life, and after he had become a Roman Catholic, Waugh ridiculed Bourchier, calling him a “totally preposterous parson”.  This small exhibition curated by Reverend Alan Walker, seeks to reconsider their relationship and rediscover a local clergyman who performed on the national stage.

The exhibit is related to Rev Walker’s recent booklet entitled A Totally Preposterous Parson: Evelyn Waugh and Basil Bourchier. The museum is located on New End Square near Flask Walk, a short walk from the Hampstead Underground Station. Waugh’s family home at 145 North End Road is about a 1/2 hour walk from the museum (one may also take the train to the next tube station at Golders Green and walk 5 minutes from there). The house is marked with an English Heritage Blue Plaque.

The exhibit opened earlier this week and continues through Sunday 24 June. The museum’s opening hours are somewhat eccentric and should be consulted before planning a trip. See details here.

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Brideshead: Crime Story, Aesthetes and a Scientist

The second season of the TV series American Crime Story is nearing its end on the FX cable channel in the USA. It has just begun on BBC and has reached Episode 3 this week. It is entitled the Assassination of Gianni Versace and is based on Maureen Orth’s book Vulgar Favors: Andrew Cunanan, Gianni Versace, and the Largest Failed Manhunt in U.S. History. (The first series, also successful, was devoted to the O.J.Simpson case.) News reports of Episode 8 (“Creator/Destroyer”) bring Waugh’s novel Brideshead Revisited into the story. The murderer was a 27-year old homosexual named Andrew Cunanan who had met Versace, a successful fashion designer who was also gay, in the early 1990s. The series, which begins with the 1997 murder of Versace by Andrew (one of several), takes both the victim and the perpetrator back through their life histories, and by Episode 8 has reached Cunanan’s Southern California teen age years in the early 1980s.

Andrew was his father’s favorite and was assigned the master bedroom in their sprawling La Jolla house. He even bought Andrew a sports car before he was old enough to drive. All of this was beyond the family’s means but that’s another strand of the plot. The reviews of Episode 8 explain how Brideshead comes into the story. As described in Entertainment Weekly:

Cunanan gets into a prestigious private school, where he’s voted “most likely to be remembered.” He happily stands out with a flamboyant flair for attention-seeking behavior. … But he wasn’t a liar yet. He wasn’t a child who skinned squirrels or bullied others. Instead, he read Brideshead Revisited (a massive poster on his bedroom makes sure the audience doesn’t miss the symbolism there) and acts like a manic charmer, seducing people around him with his refusal to fit in.

An article in the entertainment newsite and magazine VICE attributes Andrew’s interest as much to the TV series as the novel. At the time of its debut in the USA, it is suggested that:

… he was just a precocious ten- or 11-year-old… (Shout out to Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, a classic novel of wealth, war, and homoeroticism that Andrew started obsessing over after he caught the equally beloved 1981 PBS miniseries.)… Although he hid his sexuality from his family, at school he cultivated a gregarious, pretentious, preppy, and extremely effeminate persona inspired by the aristocratic, queer Brideshead character Sebastian Flyte. He dated older men who showered him with gifts—including one named Antoine…

Is it too much to hope that Antoine’s surname is White?

On a lighter note, the academic weblog The Conversation posts an essay about beauty in art by Robert Wellington. In a discussion of 20th century aesthetes, the essay considers the examples of Oscar Wilde and Stephan Tennant:

Stephen was immortalised as the character of Lord Sebastian Flyte in Evelyn Waugh’s masterpiece, Brideshead Revisited. Waugh’s character of the frivolous Oxford Aesthete who carries around his teddy bear, Aloysius, and dotes on his Nanny, borrows these characteristics from Stephen — who kept a plush monkey as a constant companion right up until his death.

Waugh’s book is a powerful meditation on art, beauty and faith. The narrator, Charles Ryder, is thought to have been loosely based on Tennant’s close friend, the painter/illustrator Rex Whistler, the aesthete-artist who tragically died on his first day of engagement in the Second World War.

Through the character of Charles, Waugh grapples with the dilemma of beauty vs erudition. Visiting Brideshead, the magnificent country estate of Sebastian’s family, Charles is keen to learn its history and to train his eye. He asks his host, “Is the dome by Inigo Jones, too? It looks later.” Sebastian replies: “Oh, Charles, don’t be such a tourist. What does it matter when it was built, if it’s pretty?” Sebastian gives the aesthete’s response, that a work of art or architecture should be judged on aesthetic merit alone.

Tennant may well have contributed to the character of Sebastian but there were other donors as well. Those frequently mentioned are Alastair Graham and Hugh Lygon, Waugh’s friends from Oxford. As to whether Rex Whistler was a model for Charles Ryder, there seems to be less of a consensus than is suggested by the article.

Finally, a North India newspaper, The Tribune, contains a memoir by a former student (Shelley Wakia) about Cambridge scientist Stephen Hawking, who died earlier this week. Among his recollections is this:

I had been working on the decline of the aristocracy, especially in the context of Evelyn Waugh, and at one of our meetings, Hawking interestingly drew my attention to Waugh’s “Brideshead Revisited” enmeshed in the culture and academic atmosphere of Cambridge and Oxford. In our conversation, he mentioned how Hitler had decided not to bomb these two centres of higher learning while the allies in return spared Heidelberg and Gottingen. To my amusement, he told me how Hitler had envisioned Oxford as the capital of his empire.


Posted in Adaptations, Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh, Newspapers, Television, Television Programs | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hard Cases: Drugs and Reality

The Spanish magazine Historia y Vida based in Barcelona has an article this month about Brenda Dean Paul. She was a member of the bright young people, and the story by Eva Melús connects her with Waugh’s novels of the period:

In theory, Dean Paul always wanted to be an actress, but this interest soon deflated. Already at twenty years old, she had succumbed to the nightlife of Berlin in Weimar Germany, where she spent a season. Back in London, she concentrated on her celebrity role and queen of the holidays. Her circle, baptized by journalists as Bright Young Things, mounted them in all colors. …The writer Evelyn Waugh, one of the Bright Young Things, portrayed Brenda Dean Paul’s parties in his novels like Decline and Fall (1928) and Vile Bodies (1930). Meanwhile, the Englishman in the street, (el inglés de a pie) affected by the Great Depression, absorbed with a mixture of envy and disapproval the activities of that gang of idle and banal millionaires.

After explaining her addiction to morphine and later heroin and her prison sentence for drug possession and fraud, the article describes the sad ending to her story in the 1950s:

….[A]t age 45 she got her first big role in the theater: being the protagonist of La Princesa Zoubaroff. Drugs had not made a dent in her beauty, but in her ability. Her addiction prevented her on many occasions from performing her role. Her repeated relapses and scandals did not cease. ..The artist Michael Wishart claimed to have seen her clean her syringe in the water of a vase during a party. And one of her roommates informed the police that she was hiring herself out as a submissive in sadomasochistic sessions. She died at age 52, probably because of an overdose.

I don’t think any of Waugh’s characters sank quite to her level of depravity. Still, one wonders how much she may have contributed to the naming of Brenda Last in Waugh’s novel A Handful of Dust? The translation is by Google with edits.

The Catholic World Report has a review of the Disney film adaptation of the novel A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. According to the reviewer, James Watson, the book involves characters who are forced to encounter reality at various levels. He thinks the adaptation misses the point of the book and offers examples of how other writers have dealt with it more succesfully:

This emphasis on the hardness of reality is not unique to L’Engle, of course, though it has become rare in recent decades. Dostoevsky’s priest tells the Karamazov patriarch that the most dangerous type of lie is that which one tells oneself. Charles Williams (a lesser known Inkling) has his character Lawrence Wentworth begin his descent into hell by fudging small historical details in his books, then allowing himself to indulge in an increasingly unrealistic fantasy about an unrequited love, and finally by isolating himself in pure solipsistic delusion as he lowers himself step by step into damnation. In Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisitied, Julia finally comes up against the immovable object of her indissoluble marriage, and leaves Charles Ryder permanently. Her absolutely steely decision has nothing to do with her feelings on the matter.

This probably makes more sense if you have read the book.


Posted in A Handful of Dust, Adaptations, Brideshead Revisited, Decline and Fall, Evelyn Waugh, Newspapers, Vile Bodies | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

A Diary, a Legacy, and a First Edition

The long-running “Londoner’s Diary” column of the Evening Standard has been relaunched as “The Londoner” and has a new author, Charlotte Edwardes, who writes her introductory article with a nod to Evelyn Waugh and several of his friends:

On my first day on one of the broadsheet diaries back in the late Nineties, I found a reporter balled up in the stationery cupboard reeking of what they called “a light breakfast wine”. […]

As I return to the new Londoner, launched yesterday, I’m reminded how important these mischievous, dirty, scandalous corners are to the trade. They have bags of history — not least in Evelyn Waugh’s satire Vile Bodies, where a diarist is the tragic hero. Anyone snobby towards diarists should remember the alumni: John Betjeman, Randoph Churchill, Harold Nicholson and Michael Foot, all worked on The Londoner. The diary,  said Bill Deedes, should have one fact, one generalisation and a slight inaccuracy.

Rules today seem as they always were: the least relevant are the most haughty, while the most glittering are the most helpful.

Waugh’s career as a gossip columnist was on the Daily Express which used none of his copy written during his brief tenure. He became a subject of a gossip column in the “Londoner’s Diary” in 1948 when he was waylaid by a reporter on his arrival from the USA. This was after an unpublicized tour to gather research for a Life magazine article. Having avoided negative publicity on this tour, he was somewhat abashed by the story that appeared in the Standard’s “Londoner’s Diary” for 30 December 1948: “The Americans–by Waugh” (reprinted in CWEW, v. 19: A Little Learning, p, 505). In this, he complained that the Americans overheated their rooms, nailed down their windows, played their radios endlessly, talked too much and chewed bubble gum. After the story spread through the US press on the wire services, Waugh felt obliged to submit a rejoinder, professing his admiration for Americans. This was intended to unruffle feathers in advance of his public lecture tour of the USA in early 1949. The article eventually appeared, entitled “Kicking Against the Goad”, in Commonweal, a Roman Catholic journal (EAR, p.371).

Naim Attallah has republished on his website another of his detailed literary interviews. The subject was Sybille Bedford, novelist and biographer of Aldous Huxley as well as his friend. The interview was conducted in 1996, 10 years before Bedford’s death in 2006. Her first novel was A Legacy, published in 1956. Attallah asks her about it:

Q. A Legacy was reviewed favourably by Evelyn Waugh in The Spectator. He said: ‘We know nothing of the author’s age, nationality or religion, but we gratefully salute a new artist.’ I imagine these words gave you a tremendous thrill…

A. Still do…still do. It’s the one thing I hang on to sometimes when I start to wonder what I have done with my life. It’s much the best thing that ever happened to me.

Waugh’s review (entitled “A Remarkable Historical Novel”) appeared in The Spectator’s 13 April 1956 edition and is reprinted in EAR, p. 510.

Finally, an inscribed first edition of Waugh in Abysinnia is offered for sale by a dealer in Hull:

A very good book that has been warmly inscribed by the author to his father, to the ffep. The Inscription reads BEST LOVE FROM / EVELYN. The book has the family bookplate of Arthur Waugh to the front pastedown, opposite the authors inscription.

The book is listed on ABE for about $15,000. The listing includes photos of the inscription and bookplate.

UPDATE (15 March 2018): Modified to reflect comment of David Platzer printed below. Thanks, David.

Posted in Complete Works, Essays, Articles & Reviews, Evelyn Waugh, First Editions, Interviews, Newspapers, Vile Bodies | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Waugh Criminal

A new book about criminality in WWII (Merlin at War) has been written by Mark Ellis and is discussed on  (official website of the BBC History Magazine). The article opens with this:

The Second World War was a golden period for British crime. Between 1939 and 1945, reported crimes in England and Wales rose from 303,711 to 478,394, an increase of 57 per cent. What was behind this huge jump? The blackout and the bombs were the most obvious factors, and murder, rape, robbery, burglary and theft all flourished in the dark and the chaos. But there were other reasons. The war brought with it a vast raft of new restrictions and regulations which many people chose to break or circumvent. Rationing of various staples of life offered huge opportunities to fraudsters, forgers and thieves and created a vibrant black market…

After considering many of the examples cited in the opening paragraph, the book comes to one with a Waugh connection:

Other government initiatives, such as evacuation, were open to fraudulent manipulation. Some country families were happy to have children billeted with them, but others weren’t – and some resorted to bribery to evade the responsibility. Basil Seal, one of Evelyn Waugh’s protagonists in his wartime novel Put Out The Flags, takes advantage of his sister’s position as a billeting officer and makes a nice sum from this type of corrupt activity, illustrative of activity at the time.

Other examples of wartime criminality in Waugh’s books would include Dr Akonanga, the abortionist/witch doctor in Unconditional Surrender, not to mention Ludovic in Officers and Gentlemen (although killing an officer came under military, not civilian jurisdiction).

Racing Post has a story about a 109-year old resident of Gloucester, Ralph Hoare, who remembers delivering baked goods to Evelyn Waugh in his youth:

Prior to serving in the RAF, Ralph worked as a bank clerk, where he met TE Lawrence, otherwise known as Lawrence of Arabia. “I met Evelyn Waugh before the war as well,” he says. “He was a grumpy old thing. He was very fond of cake as well. My landlady in Somerset made very good cakes. He would come to pick one up, but if it wasn’t ready I had to take it to his house. I thought he was quite surly.”

Since Waugh was living in Gloucestershire just before and after the war (in Stinchcombe near Dursley) Mr Hoare may have gotten his landlady’s locations mixed up. Waugh didn’t move to Somerset until the 1950s.

The Independent newspaper has posted its list of the best 10 alternative titles for books. Waugh’s “alternative title” for Brideshead Revisited is one of those selected: “The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder: … Peter Warner, who had the idea for this list, suggested this one.”  That’s more of a subtitle. I don’t think Waugh ever gave any thought to using it as an alternative. Others on the list include: The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up: J M Barrie, Peter Pan; and The Modern Prometheus: Mary Shelley, Frankenstein. Again, those sound more like subtitles.

Finally, the Richmond Times-Dispatch quotes a speech of a Member of the Virginia House of Delegates (Lee Ware) to a gathering of distinguished local news correspondents about the importance of their work:

…as we gather here I am reminded of the exchange that indicates a rising tension between would-be husband and wife in the novel “Brideshead Revisited” by Evelyn Waugh. After listening — again — to her consort complain about people believing in the “hocus pocus” of a particular religion (which happens to be mine, by the way) the woman bellows, “Why don’t you write a letter to The Times?!” The man does not do so, not because he lacks the conviction — though it is a conviction he holds only half-heartedly. He does not do so because he recognizes in his lover’s cry of the heart that writing a letter would not only change no one’s mind but bring him no peace.

Posted in Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh, Newspapers, Put Out More Flags, World War II | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Waugh and Norman Mailer: “The Naked and the Read”

This week’s TLS has an article (“The Naked and the Read”) about Norman Mailer’s library. This is by J Michael Lennon, Mailer’s archivist and authorized biographer. Mailer seems to have been a book accumulator rather than a book collector like Waugh. He possessed over 7,000 volumes scattered over four locations: two in Brooklyn and two in Provincetown. He spent over $1,000 a month on books but was not interested in first or rare editions, only in their contents. Indeed, according to Lennon, if there was a passage or section to which he wanted to refer at some event, he would rip out the relevant pages. This was true whether the book was a signed first edition or a mass market paperback. Sometimes he taped the pages back into the book, sometimes not.

His main interests were American and French literature (he had a working knowledge of French) but he also inchuded British writers in his library. According to Lennon:

… his favourite authors [were] those he listed on seven published surveys. They were: Dos Passos (on all seven), Tolstoy (six), Spengler, Thomas Wolfe and Marx (five), Dostoevsky, Stendhal, Hemingway and James T. Farrell (four), as well as Malraux and Steinbeck on three occasions. Several other writers are listed twice, including Melville, Borges and E. M. Forster, the only English author.

His interest in British writers extended beyond Forster, however, as we noted in a previous post where he mentioned admiring Waugh during an interview by William F Buckley. Lennon goes on to explain the extent of Mailer’s interest in British literature:

Mailer may have been more influenced by French novelists than British ones, but he nevertheless admired the skills of the latter. During a visit to London in the autumn of 1961, he told an interviewer, “Sentence for sentence, the good British authors write better than we do. I’m thinking of people like Amis, Waugh, Graham Greene. Some are bad: I’ve never been able to read Joyce Cary”…. On the other hand, he owned most of Forster’s novels. Forster was not “one of the novelists I admire most. But I have learned a lot from him” […]

His best-loved British novelist was Graham Greene; he once said that The End of the Affair was the best anatomy of a love affair he had ever read (the fact that Greene wrote to him to say that he was “moved and excited” by the “magnificent” Advertisements for Myself did no harm to their relationship). […] Speaking on the BBC programme Omnibus in 1971, Mailer praised Nineteen Eighty-Four for its “profoundly prophetic vision of a world filled with dull, awful, profoundly picayune little wars . . . that would kill the world slowly”. Orwell admired Mailer’s work, and said in a letter in 1949 that The Naked and the Dead was “awfully good, the best war book of the last war yet”, a comment that appeared on paperback copies of the novel for decades. Some of the other British books on the shelves are The Mill on the FlossWomen in Love (discussed at length in The Prisoner of Sex, 1971), The Good Soldier and Cyril Connolly’s The Missing Diplomats, a non-fiction examination of the scandal surrounding the Cambridge spies Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean, which Mailer probably consulted for Harlot’s Ghost. The earliest book by a British writer is Charlotte Brontë’s final novel, Villette (1853), a Folio Society edition which shows no dog ears. There is nothing by Austen, Dickens, Trollope, or Hardy.

Waugh and Mailer met at least once, in 1961 (probably during the visit mentioned above), at a party in Somerset given by a Mrs Kidd. Waugh told Ann Fleming in a 23 September 1961 letter that one of the horses “bit an American pornographer who tried to give it vodka.” This was Mailer, accompanied by Mrs Kidd’s daughter, Lady Jean Campbell (whom Mailer later married). Waugh’s letter continues:

I had never met Lady Jean Campbell and was fascinated. She came to us next day bringing the bitten pornographer. He might have come straight from your salon–a swarthy gangster just out of a mad house where he had been sent after an attempt to cut his wife’s throat. It is his first visit to England. His tour is Janet Kidd, Randolph, Ian Argyll. He will be able to write a revealing pornogram of English life.

Mailer responded to this description, apparently in response to a letter of enquiry from Mark Amory:

The horse did bite me on the finger but I was not feeding him vodka, just patting his nose…I did not cut my wife’s throat…Jean Campbell asked me what I thought of him [Waugh] and I said ‘Lots of fun. Much sweeter than I expected.’ Letters, 572-73.

The archives of both writers have come to rest in the same building at the Harry Ransom Center in Austin, Texas.

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CWEW Journalism Volume Published

Volume 26 of the Complete Works of Evelyn Waugh was published in the UK earlier this month and is available for sale. This is the fifth volume of the Complete Works to be published and first of four volumes in the Essays, Articles and Reviews series. It covers Waugh’s journalism for 1922-1934 and was edited and compiled by Professor Donat Gallagher who also edited earlier collections of Waugh’s journalism as well as several books and articles on his life and works.

This description of the contents appears on the OUP website and is substantially the same as that we posted previously:

This first volume of Evelyn Waugh’s Articles, Essays, and Reviews contains every traceable piece of journalism that research could uncover written by Waugh between January 1922, when he first went up to Oxford, and December 1934, when he had recently returned from British Guiana and was enjoying the runaway success of A Handful of Dust.

Long interred in fashion magazines, popular newspapers, sober journals, undergraduate reviews, and BBC archives, 110 of the 170 pieces in the volume have never before been reprinted. Several typescripts of articles and reviews are published here for the first time, as are a larger number of unsigned pieces never before identified as Waugh’s. Original texts, so easily distorted in the production process, have been established as far as possible using manuscript and other controls. The origins of the works are explored, and annotations to each piece seek to assist the modern reader.

The volume embraces university journalism; essays from Waugh’s years of drift after Oxford; forcefully emphatic articles and contrasting sophisticated reviews written for the metropolitan press from 1928 to 1930 (the most active and enterprising years of Waugh’s career); reports for three newspapers of a coronation in Abyssinia and essays for The Timeson the condition of Ethiopia and on British policy in Arabia. Finally, in early 1934 Waugh travelled for three months in remote British Guiana, resulting in nine travel articles and A Handful of Dust, acclaimed as one of the most distinguished novels of the century. Waugh was 19 when his first Oxford review appeared, 31 when the Spectator printed his last review of 1934. This is a young writer’s book, and the always lucid articles and reviews it presents read as fresh and lively, as challenging and opinionated, as the day they first appeared.

This volume is scheduled for release in the USA on 1 May 2018, and is accepting advance orders at the link posted above.

Posted in Academia, Collections, Complete Works, Essays, Articles & Reviews | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Weekend Roundup: Brideshead in the News

Alan Hollinghurst’s latest novel The Sparsholt Affair  is being released in the USA next week and is reviewed in the Boston Globe. The Globe’s reviewer, Priscilla Gilman, as with several in the UK, notes the book’s conections with Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited:

The first section, “A New Man,” is utterly captivating and immersive. It is a literary memoir by former Oxford student Freddie Greene, whose wry, bemused, plummy voice is perfectly realized. With wit and elan to spare, Greene expatiates on the intrigue that ensues when David Sparsholt, an engineering student with a fiancée, Connie, and a plan to join the Royal Air Force, arrives at Oxford in 1940….Sparsholt’s enigmatic allure, the impossibility of possessing, knowing, or pinning him down casts a dreamy spell over character and reader alike. In this “New Man” section, rife with “brief dislocated intimacies” and “fleeting alliance[s]”, Hollinghurst gives us a brilliant homage to Evelyn Waugh’s Oxford novels while creating a mood of provocative possibility and ominous foreboding distinctively his own.

Brideshead is also the inspiration for the posting of a recipe in The Guardian. This is sorrel soup which appears on the menu in Waugh’s novel: “I remember the dinner well – soup of oseille, a sole quite simply cooked in a white-wine sauce, a caneton à la presse, a lemon soufflé.”  The Guardian article, from a correspondent in Brisbane, Australia where it is now late summer, offers this context:

…as I reminded myself of the other courses Charles Ryder orders – a sole in white wine sauce and a dish of pressed duck – I decided that, although it certainly would have been served hot in Paris, I was happy to reimagine it as a cold soup. And on a muggy January night in Brisbane, it’s the only version I could imagine eating. The sharp acidity of the sorrel is tempered by the egg and cream, though they’re added in small amounts so that the soup doesn’t taste too rich. I could have eaten the whole pan – it’s a soup I’ll be repeating.

The Atlantic magazine ran a poll on the question of which fictional house you would prefer to live it. One respondent made this choice:

Meg Wolitzer, author, The Female Persuasion

As someone who happily grew up in a suburb off the Long Island Expressway (Exit 43), once in a while I imagine what it would’ve been like to spend my childhood wandering the echoing halls of Brideshead Castle, from Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited—English accent included.

The website’s Insider column chooses the 50 best TV shows from history to watch in  a lifetime during what it sees as another “golden TV age” dawning. At number 4 is the Granada TV production based on Waugh’s novel:

Brideshead Revisited (1981). Considered by many critics to be the gold standard in adapting a novel to TV, “Brideshead Revisited” starred Jeremy Irons and Anthony Andrews as a pair of friends from youth to adulthood who grow apart. Evelyn Waugh’s classic novel gets deep into its character’s heads, but the adaptation gives it time to breath and translates it into an entirely new medium instead of simply staging the same scenes.

It was outranked by The Sopranos, Game of Thrones and The Wire at #s 1, 2, and 3 respectively.

The CBC has posted on its website’s books column My Life in Books a list of the favorite books of its sportscaster Andi Petrillo. Among those selected was Waugh’s The Loved One:

“I caught myself laughing out loud many times reading The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh. This is one of my favourite satirical novels. Instead of getting angry with the human pursuit of social status, this novel mocks it using humour by exaggerating our chase for it through how we depict ourselves even in death.”

Finally, BBC Radio 4 has reposted a 1999 broadcast of its series A Good Read. In this, the presenter Bel Mooney discusses three books with  guests Hunter Davies (novelist and biographer) and Jim Sergeant (BBC Chief Political Correspondent). All three participants had had experience as  journalists and brought this to bear in a discussion of Waugh’s 1938 novel Scoop. This forms the first discussion of three on the 30 minute episode.

Posted in Adaptations, Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh, Newspapers, Radio Programs, Scoop, Television, The Loved One | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Waugh and Anthony Powell (More)

Waugh’s influence is prominently mentioned in a review in this week’s Die Tagespost, a German language paper sponsored by the Roman Catholic church. The review is by Urs Buhlmann and the book is Powell’s novel The Soldier’s Art which has been translated into German (Die Kunst des Soldaten). This is No. 8 in Powell’s 12 volume series Dance to the Music of Time. The review begins by describing Powell as: “Better than Balzac,” according to one critic; another thought that he could classify the author as a mere descriptor of the British upper class.  …  He is a worthy successor to Evelyn Waugh, mostly not yet known [in Germany]. The review is entitled “Kühl, humorvoll, durchdacht” (translated as “Cool, Humorous, Thoughtful”). In the article,  this is explained by describing Powell’s work as: “…a reading pleasure, like a bottle of good sparkling wine to quote Evelyn Waugh, ‘cool, humorous, thoughtful and well built'”.  Where this translated quotation originates is not explained. It doesn’t appear as such in the two Spectator reviews Waugh wrote of Powell’s novels. It may be Buhlmann’s interpretation of something Waugh wrote. Whether Waugh was writing about Powell’s work or wine is unclear from the translated text. The article concludes with another reference to Waugh:

The typical topics of recent British literature, as already encountered in Evelyn Waugh – the rise of the success-oriented middle class with simultaneous decline of the hitherto leading elites -are coolly noted by Anthony Powell, not challenged.

The translations are by Goggle with some edits.

Another reviewer, this one addressing the recent biography of Anthony Powell by Hilary Spurling, also describes Powell’s relationship to Waugh. This is by Martin McGinness in the Sydney Morning Herald. He begins by considering how well Dance to the Music of Time has worn:

With a title taken from Poussin’s masterpiece of the four seasons, Dance, has been described as “Proust Englished by P.G. Wodehouse” but perhaps Powell’s closely-observed study of 20th-century bohemacy has suffered from being too real: its texture a trifle tweedy; its colours slightly faded. He is not an escapist like Wodehouse; a moralist like Orwell, nor a satirist like Waugh. And yet his 3000 pages, 1 million words and nearly 500 characters are still a singular and extraordinary achievement – a very English life over 60 years through the eyes of Nicholas Jenkins. Auberon Waugh said on the publication of his father’s diaries, “[They] show that the world of Evelyn Waugh’s novels did in fact exist”. This is even truer of his friend and contemporary. Powell’s Dance is not just a roman-fleuve; it is also largely a roman-a-clef.

McGinness goes on to compare aspects of Powell’s characters and plot with real people and events. After adjudging Hilary Spurling’s official biography a bit inferior to the earlier unauthorized book by Michael Barber, McGinness concludes:

Anthony Powell, the novelist, deserves to be read and though, like the last century, it was not a merry one, his Dance can be enjoyed – its elegant ebb and flow, its cadences and coincidences; its galaxy of recurring characters; and its message that time takes its toll.

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