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Customer Review

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Some Golden Oldies Here, 11 April 2012
This review is from: The Complete Short Stories (Hardcover)
"The Complete Short Stories of Evelyn Waugh," major, British writer of the twentieth century, who tended to comedy, is certainly the product of thorough editing, including, as it does, several of his short short juvenile, and Oxford, pieces. It also includes several fragments of novels excised from the final, or never completed, and, of course, the many stories Waugh published in magazines during his lifetime.

The earliest work, dating from the 1920's, shows Waugh as the skillful, amusing and witty social commentator we see in the novels then published, such as, A Handful of Dust (Penguin Modern Classics) and Decline and Fall (Penguin Modern Classics). "Bella Fleace Gave A Party," published in "Harpers' Bazaar," U.K., and U.S, is an amazingly brief masterpiece of social detail, as an Irish landowner sets about giving her last ball. If you've never given a ball, you could follow the instructions Waugh gives -- though, thankfully, we don't have to lick stamps anymore -- and give one successfully. Mind you, though, success will require mailing the invites. "The Man Who Liked Dickens," substantially expanded, became the ending of HANDFUL; that novel's alternate ending is also published here. Two chapters of an unfinished novel give us an entertaining closeup of the wealthy bohemian social life of the period.

From somewhat later in his career, World War II and afterwards, we find "Charles Ryder's Schooldays," excised from Waugh's masterwork, "Brideshead Revisited." The level of detail and dialogue in this is such as to lead a reader to think the young Waugh must have been keeping voluminous diaries before he could spell properly. "Compassion" is a bitter World War II story about the wartime treatment of Jews: his characters did not always seem that fond of the race. "Love Among The Ruins," set in the post-war period, is apparently Waugh's only stab at science fiction, and not too successful. "Scott-King's Modern Europe" is hilarious, and witty too. Consider his resonant description of air travel:

"He had left his hotel at seven o'clock that morning; it was now past noon and he was still on English soil. He had not been ignored. He had been shepherded in and out of charabancs and offices like an idiot child; he had been weighed and measured like a load of merchandise; he had been searched like a criminal; he had been cross-questioned about his past and his future, the state of his health and of his finances, as though he were applying for permanent employment of a confidential nature. Scott-King had not been nurtured in luxury and privilege, but this was not how he used to travel. And he had eaten nothing except a piece of flaccid toast and margarine in his bedroom....<A> voice said: 'Passengers for Bellacita will now proceed to Exit D,' .... while, simultaneously, the conductress appeared in the doorway and said: 'Follow me, please. Have your embarkation papers, medical cards, customs clearance slips, currency control vouchers, passports, tickets, identity dockets, travel orders, emigration certificates, baggage checks and security sheets ready for inspection at the barrier, please.'"

After all that, the man's got to sneak back into the country. If this sort of thing is your cup of tea, then it'll be your cup of tea.
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Location: Wilmington, NC USA

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