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3.9 out of 5 stars
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3.9 out of 5 stars
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on 23 January 2004
This is an incredibly funny novel, and a must read for anybody interested in the politics of the world during the 30's, or the farcical nature of the press. All the way through it is funny, and I can think of no novel similar to it.
In regard to the novel being racist, I don't think it is. It must be taken in the context of it's time, much of the language is outdated, and would never be used now for fear of offence, but was, at the time acceptable. The African characters in the book are never criticised more than the white characters, and if anything, the African's end up fooling the journalists and being portrayed as intelligent, insightful characters. How this could be considered racist is a mystery to me.
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VINE VOICEon 1 July 2005
Waugh is both appreciated and reviled for much the same qualities. The same caustic wit and social observation that sliced through the ridiculous class structure of his time also brought a flippancy and 'carelessness' which in our politically correct age reads uncomfortably.
Scoop is a classic example, essentially involving a mix up in the assignment of a plum overseas journalism posting to cover the Ishmalian civil war. This is written in the age of Goebbels and Stalin, and so it is no surprise to see that the power of the press is essentially responsible for destabilizing the otherwise unassuming African state. Where the journalists decide there is a story, a story will exist. Is it really that different today?
Waugh uses his social observation skills to almost ludicrous extremes, with portraits of Lord Copper, Boot of the Beast and the other journalists in the pack being both ghastly and stunningly incompetent. The novel retains its comic touch, although has dated slightly more than some of Waugh's other works. Essentially many of the caustic barbs would be more suited to an age familiar with the excesses of Beaverbrook and Rothermere.
This is essentially classic Waugh, and thus should be approached with a little prior knowledge of his style. If you like him, you'll love this - I devoured it in a day.
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on 7 August 2001
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This book is set just 54 years before CNN redefined the role of war correspondents during the Gulf War of 1990.
Back in the late 1930s just before WW2, the global powers were having a trial run ahead of the Big One. In those days, it was the newspapers (and not the TV networks) who called the shots.
Evelyn Waugh in his inimitable, over-the-top style goes right to the heart of the media business. It's not about delivering news; it's pure power politics. The egos of the media owner are the prime drivers of the machinations of this industry. Their bungling underlings are constantly in damage control and covering up their incompetencies.
Only Waugh could get away with these observations on indigenous Africa. His descriptions of the supposedly fictitious Democratic Republic in Africa (20 years before most of the continent went independent of their colonial masters) is pure clairvoyance.
Most of Africa today is just like his Ishmaelia. So-called democracies run by autocratic Presidents-for-Life.
This book as well as being a primer for foreign correspondents, is an excellent manual for students of African politics.
Unfortunately, for many readers on the West Side of the Atlantic, Waugh's subtle ironic style might be at times impenetrable. Rule one with Waugh is never to take things at face value. He was a brave and clever man to get away with the demolition jobs he does on his own class ridden British society.
Once you twig to his wit, his writing becomes a pure pleasure. There is never a dull moment. His observations on society, politics, business and the human condition are timeless.
Waugh is the master of 20th century satirical literary humour. Scoop is one of his best.
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VINE VOICEon 16 December 2002
Evelyn Waugh was without doubt one the funniest writers that 20th century Britain produced, and this is one of the best examples of his work. Written during the interwar period, the book parodies the battles of mass market Fleet Street as the rivalry between the Daily Brute and the Daily Beast.
William Boot mistaken for his travel writing cousin is sent to Africa to report on a possible coup in the independent state of Ishamlia.
Having previously only produced a nature column called lush places, Boot's journey is a superb comedy of errors. This book is not only excellent in it's own right but provides a superb introduction to the rest of Waugh's work. Waugh might be best known these days for 'Brideshead Revisited,' but his earlier comedies are for me at least as rewarding.
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VINE VOICEon 12 November 2003
To Chad, Andy Barnes and others who found Scoop offensive, consider the alternative viewpoint:
I first read this book at Wilmslow Grammar School in the mid-1970s, when it was clearly not considered racist or any unsuitable for school children. Furthermore, we were taught that Waugh himself is embodied in the naive everyman character, William Boot, who sees everything but avoids the pitfalls of premature judgement. Waugh's whimsical but savage narration, on the other hand, lampoons everything in sight, notably the enterprising but weary African response to expense account journalism.
Ishmaelians are stereotyped and lightly ridiculed not because Waugh was personally racist, but because he is attacking the mores and prejudices of his readership, albeit it such a light-hearted fashion that the vast majority would barely realise they were being sent up.
As such, Scoop is a perfect document of its time, but I doubt that much has really changed. For all our political correctness nowadays, it seems to me that most people are more suspicious of and offensive towards foreigners now than ever. Waugh was right - plus ca change, plus c'est le meme chose!
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on 1 December 2012
I was very pleased to find SCOOP available in Kindle once again, as I had to re-read it for a book club event and my old Penguin paperback had of course gone yellow and fallen to pieces. The Kindle edition was unavailable, due, apparently to 'technical issues' with the text. Its reappearance alas does not mean that these issues have been entirely resolved. Throughout the novel (I have so far read about 27% of it) the letters 'th' have been mis-transcribed as 'di'. Thus (dius) 'their' becomes 'diir', 'those' 'diose', 'together' 'togedier' and most amusingly, 'the', 'die'. You might put up with diis when die e-version was put togedier by endiusiasts and cost nodiing, but not when you've just paid Penguin dirough die nose, diank you very much.
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on 9 May 2004
Scoop is a classic that has long none of its relevance since Waugh satirised the haphazard process of news gathering and reporting.
With the rise of "television news", the crazy mix between internal agendas and accident has perhaps become more wayward. If readers and listeners only knew the half of it ...
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on 6 November 2000
Waugh effortlessly sucked me into this barmy but beguiling world where everyone speaks their mind but no-one pays any attention. If I said it was about journalism, international relations, nepatism, government, privilege, and philosophy you'd get totally the wrong idea, but it is. If I said it was firstly laugh-out-loud funny, secondly, a classic depiction of life for a certain class of people at a certain time in Britain and thirdly, based around an interesting set of observations I think I'd be getting closer to the truth. You see Waugh, I believe, didn't write about the answers to the injustices, or contradictions he saw. He just redrew them for his reader to make up his or her mind. Which is what I think you should do with Scoop. Remember, laugh first.
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on 4 June 2016
This book is a 'forgotten' gem by one of our greatest writers. Re-reading it after about 30 years, I found it as wickedly funny now as then. It's a classic of 'comedy of errors' writing, as bitingly funny about Waugh's own class and profession as it is towards any other cultures mentioned .I say 'forgotten'. Do I mean edited out? Censored? Many journalists still appreciate its merciless lampooning of who and what makes 'news'. Some of course are shocked by its apparent racism and blatant snobbery, while many academics prefer to ignore it in writing courses for fear of giving offence to all the usual suspects. What a travesty that students should miss out on studying such a book for its subtle insights, wit and irony, brilliant use of viewpoint, dialogue and background colour. It's a work of its time, but so are all literary classics and other art forms. Then ask any journalist if it doesn't still have relevance today.
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on 6 November 2000
Waugh effortlessly sucked me into this barmy but beguiling world where everyone speaks their mind but no-one pays any attention. If I said it was about journalism, international relations, nepatism, government, privilege, and philosophy you'd get totally the wrong idea, but it is. If I said it was firstly laugh-out-loud funny, secondly, a classic depiction of life for a certain class of people at a certain time in Britain and thirdly, based around an interesting set of observations I think I'd be getting closer to the truth. You see Waugh, I believe, didn't write about the answers to the injustices, or contradictions he saw. He just redrew them for his reader to make up his or her mind. Which is what I think you should do with Scoop. Only laugh first.
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