Rereading Evelyn Waugh
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My accomplishment of the day was taking out all the trash bags and washing the dishes.
Arising after fifteen hours slumber Charles spent much of his day watching Comedy Central. Aside from Kids in the Hall I mostly hid.
Having read not just Evelyn Waugh’s fiction but his journalism, diaries and letters I guess I have to own how great is my enjoyment and admiration of his prose.
The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold was my first Waugh Novel. Mr. Pinfold is on a cruise but has mixed medicines from too many doctors and too much wine. So he starts hearing people accuse him of all manner of iniquities and plotting the thrash him or toss him overboard. It was based on something that had happen to Waugh himself when he was too reckless with sleeping medications and wine. I've read it three times, never failing to laugh all the way through.
A couple of weeks ago I read Helena. Since it is the legendary story of the Empress Helena's discovery of the true cross I'd bee wary of it and put it off for years. I needn't have worried. Waugh was a Catholic (convert) but that didn't prevent him from making it all a funny story. The Emperor Constantine whose decision to make Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire we live with to this day is depicted in Helena as a doddering fogy wrapped up in grandiose building schemes and theological niceties.
Having finally opened the only unread novel I went on to Waugh’s short stories. Basil Seal Rides Again is the penultimate story. Before reading that I figured it was a good time to reread Black Mischief and Put Out More Flags the two novels featuring Seal. Waugh’s style never lacked clarity and infidelity. In the years between the two novels he hadn’t lost either virtue but his elegance matured greatly.
Rereading them it was hard to believe he’d ever lost his craftsmanship in Brideshead Revisited (the only Waugh novel that I may never read for a second time).