Monday, January 23, 2017

Yet again …

… Evelyn Waugh Revisited | The Hudson Review. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I suppose you could claim that this later style was a development over the earlier one that immortalized the stoned fox, the Welsh band, and the Edgware Road, but it seems to me rather a forced, quite awkward attempt to do the highfalutin’, “poetic” manner about romantic love. The five months in which Waugh wrote Brideshead weren’t long enough to bring forth a convincing “serious” style to replace the earlier comic one. Like Charles Ryder’s sudden conversion, it doesn’t ring true to the nature of Waugh’s genius.
Well, it works for me, and worked when I first read it, more than half a century ago,  and a few years ago when I read it again. I first read it during the summer between sophomore and junior year in college.  It was on a list of novels we were expected to have read before starting a class on the modern novel in the fall. I started it on a Saturday night (for some reason I was at home). I chose it because I had laughed my way through Decline and Fall the previous semester and figured I could laugh my way through this one as well. It wasn't long, though, before I realized that this novel was quite different, and I will never forget pausing and saying to myself, "This is the saddest book I have ever read." My younger self was savvy enough to realize to compare it to early Waugh was to miss the point. In the passage Pritchard is referring to, the operative word, in my view, is death. It is about mutability, not romantic love (except, perhaps, to the extent that romantic love is emblematic of that).

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