Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Waugh Thing

The Waugh thing continues. In The Sword of Honour trilogy (Officers and Gentlemen), the brigade has not yet seen action. They're shifted from one place to the next, climb rocks, forage for roots and vegetables and return emaciated, and perform other useless military exercises. Another character has a knee injury (knee injuries are a joke: this is the third). These books are really classics, yet I know no one who reads them. Sword of Honour treats the same war themes and Catholic themes as Brideshead Revisited but more successfully. Brideshead is an uneven book--I reread it five years ago and thought it was good for about the first half, then surprisingly sentimental--and we all love it but The Sword of Honour is BETTER.

I began Alexander Waugh’s Fathers and Sons: The Autobiography of a Family. This was a rush job: I ran out to the library in my pajamas (nobody batted an eye) so I could suddenly read all about Waughs if I needed to. So I’m sitting around in my pajamas reading this at night. it’s one of those things like the Mitford biographies: you can’t go wrong. Though I’m not sure there’s a Waugh industry as there is a Mitford industry. But Alexander Waugh has inherited his grandfather Evelyn's wit. He also gives some useful suggestions about reading his family’s books. He says that Evelyn’s are best read in the order of publication to identify common themes, common characters, and autobiographical elements.

The biography presents me with a "Waugh challenge." (You know how blogs are always giving you a reading "challenge?") Here are my questions:

1. Do I need to read or reread all of Waugh’s books? I’ve already read:

Decline and Fall

Vile Bodies

A Handful of Dust

Put Out More Flags

Brideshead Revisited

The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold

Scoop (several times)

Black Mischief

The Loved One

2. How about if I just read Scoop several more times?

3. Should I read the novels of Evelyn's son Auberon Waugh, who I now learn was considered the better writer of the two by A. N. Wilson and V. S. Naipaul (who usually trashes everyone)? Oh, despair. I’ll never find any of these at the library. My library is like the Boots library described in my last post, The Great Profession.

3. Why SHOULD I read everything about Waugh? Am I a biographer?

No. So I’ll continue with the Sword of Honour trilogy and Alexander Waugh’s Fathers and Son. And then I’ll try to find something by Auberon if it’s possible. No rush: one of these days I’ll find a 17-cent-er (my preferred price for online shopping) and then add $3.99 shipping.


furnishedrooms said...

Hello there!
I'm just jumping in to say that that's the most beautiful edition of Waughs work. I recently found volume two and three of the Sword of Honor trilogy in that edition, and am on the lookout for the first before that reading project can get started.


Frisbee said...

I hope you enjoy the books!