Customer Review

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Waughped talent, 16 Nov. 2012
This review is from: Brideshead Generation: Evelyn Waugh and His Friends (Hardcover)
This biography provides a vivid portrait of Waugh's personality and the factors which may have affected it, but falls short in the method used to include some of the author's influential acquaintances such as Harold Acton, Graham Greene and John Betjeman to name only a few. This involves frequent digressions which make for a read that is often rambling and baggy in structure, particularly in the early chapters. In a book that cries out for a good edit, I was put off by the opening chapter's lengthy imaginary conversation between two horribly precocious young Etonians which, although it may have satisfied Humphrey Carpenter's ambitions as a novelist, seems unnecessary when there is so much "real" information to cover.

Waugh comes across as a witty and articulate man with a keen sense of the ridiculous, but on the negative side also a bully, an appalling snob, irritable, often remarkably rude, which may have had something to do with being frequently drunk. We are told that in World War 2 he was judged unsuitable to command a company of soldiers because he could not relate to junior ranks. All this may have been in some way the result of a lack of affection as a child, a sense of exclusion from the "cosy friendship" his father apparently formed with Waugh's older brother and the humiliation of his first wife, "She-Evelyn" going off with another man.

He also revelled in gossip, exaggerating the misfortunes of others, including so-called friends. He could not resist the barbed repartee as when Graham Greene observed that it would be fun to write about politics rather than God. Waugh rejoined: "I wouldn't give up writing about God at this stage if I were you. It would be like P.G. Wodehouse dropping Jeeves halfway through the Wooster series."

There seems to be a strong autobiographical thread in much of his writing. "Vile Bodies" which established his reputation and began to earn the income which enabled him to live the life of a country squire, shows both the brittle gaiety of the endless parties of the "Bright Young Things" but also the cynicism of the generation reaching adulthood just after World War 1 and their rejection of the values of the fathers who had sent their sons to die.

It is sad to read that, only in his early sixties, prematurely aged by alcohol, cigarettes and "sodium amytal", he was longing for death and claiming to be so bored that he breathed on the library window to play "noughts and crosses with himself, drinking gin in the intervals between play". Even before that, suffering from hallucinations and an enhanced persecution mania triggered by large quantities of alcohol combined with medicinally prescribed drugs, Waugh heard voices accusing him of the actual charges that he probably found most cutting: that he was snobbish, had fascist sympathies, was guilty of "sentimental overwriting" at times, and may have been an "insincere" convert to Catholicism, together with the charge of homosexuality.

Although the final chapters of this book are the best, I was disappointed by the rather pat ending, suggesting that Evelyn Waugh's reactionary views had been proved justified by the turn of events evident in the 1980s - "the remarkable way in which ancient institutions seem to have outlived the egalitarian zeitgeist".
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

Be the first person to comment on this review.

[Add comment]
Post a comment
To insert a product link use the format: [[ASIN:ASIN product-title]] (What's this?)
Amazon will display this name with all your submissions, including reviews and discussion posts. (Learn more)
Name:
Badge:
This badge will be assigned to you and will appear along with your name.
There was an error. Please try again.
Please see the full guidelines ">here.

Official Comment

As a representative of this product you can post one Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
The following name and badge will be shown with this comment:
 (edit name)
After clicking on the Post button you will be asked to create your public name, which will be shown with all your contributions.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.  Learn more
Otherwise, you can still post a regular comment on this review.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
 
System timed out

We were unable to verify whether you represent the product. Please try again later, or retry now. Otherwise you can post a regular comment.

Since you previously posted an Official Comment, this comment will appear in the comment section below. You also have the option to edit your Official Comment.   Learn more
The maximum number of Official Comments have been posted. This comment will appear in the comment section below.   Learn more
Prompts for sign-in
 


Review Details

Item

3.0 out of 5 stars (1 customer review)
5 star:    (0)
4 star:    (0)
3 star:
 (1)
2 star:    (0)
1 star:    (0)
 
 
 
Used & New from: £3.03
Add to wishlist
Reviewer

Antenna
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   

Location: UK

Top Reviewer Ranking: 115