I just finished re-reading Evelyn Waugh's Decline and Fall and Vile Bodies, his first two novels, published in 1928 and 1930. I read these a long time ago and wondered if they were as good as I remembered them. They were, particularly Vile Bodies, Waugh's account of the bright young things who occupied the pages of London gossip columnists in the aftermath of the First World War.
I enjoyed reading this again. It's funny, quite cutting in places and it moves along rapidly in a series of short scenes. I like the lack of emotion shown by the central character when his life threatens to fall apart. Soon after it was published, the book became well-known for the language used by the bright young things; Agatha describing something as 'too, too sick-making' being the most obvious example.
I must have read Vile Bodies before I wrote my first book, so I wonder why I didn't steal from it, which is the sort of thing I would expect myself to do. But I didn't, as far as I remember.
I like this paragraph, at the heart of the novel -
…Masked parties, Savage parties, Victorian parties, Greek parties, Wild West parties, Russian parties, Circus parties, parties where one had to dress as somebody else, almost naked parties in St John’s Wood, parties in flats and studios and houses and ships and hotels and night clubs, in windmills and swimming-baths, tea parties at school where one ate muffins and meringues and tinned crab, parties at Oxford where one drank brown sherry and smoked Turkish cigarettes, dull dances in London and comic dances in Scotland and disgusting dances in Paris - all that succession and repetition of massed humanity… Those vile bodies…
My own piece of Evelyn Waugh trivia - A character in Lost in Translation uses Evelyn Waugh as her pseudonym for checking in anonymously at a hotel, not realising that Evelyn Waugh was male. The incongruity is pointed out by the character played by Scarlet Johansson. Then Scarlet's husband derides her for being smart. The cad.
However, the effort of reading two actual novels did take it out of me. I was fatigued afterwards, and could only slump in front of the TV for several days. I recovered gradually with anime, and watched many episodes of K-On. (Target Demographic - Japanese Schoolchildren age 8 - 14, and Scottish authors unable to rise from the couch.)
Hmm. I wish I had a job writing this anime. It's all about a band called Ho-kago Tea Time, which translates to After School Tea Time. Despite this being set in a present-day Japanese School, there's one scene where, to sort of signify great rock music, they show a picture of Led Zeppelin. Ah, their appeal is eternal.