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Evelyn Waugh 1903 – 1966

7 Jun

Evelyn Waugh

All this fuss about sleeping together. For physical pleasure I’d sooner go to my dentist any day

– Evelyn Waugh

 

Arthur Evelyn St. John (pronounced Sinjun because we Brits think we’re so very clever and have the right to laugh at people behind bejewelled hands and mocking smiles, with eyes that sing laughter but spell contempt) Waugh was an author and journalist. Of course he was an author, that’s the whole point of the blog. The clue’s in the title. It would be slightly weird if I started writing about Hitler. I know he was an author too but let’s face it, it wasn’t his main job. Not that I’m in any way comparing Waugh to Hitler, but they were both fascist and liked plaid.

Waugh was also a teacher, painter and *candlestick maker, but we don’t like to talk about it.

He was best known for writing satirical novels i.e. he liked to take the piss. Some of his most famous works are Decline and Fall, which was made into a film in 1968 called ‘Decline and Fall….of a Birdwatcher’ (sounds like bad porn to me, and a paltry 5.3 stars on IMDB probably confirms that) and Vile Bodies which was made into a film by Stephen Fry entitled Bright Young Things (the novel’s original title). I challenge anyone to find anyone who doesn’t love Stephen Fry like a favourite gay uncle. He could fart in a cinema and no one would judge him; we’d probably love him even more for his humility.

Waugh’s magnum opus (as described by him) was Brideshead Revisited, The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder. He wasn’t exactly modest, but it was chosen by Time Magazine as one of the top 100 English language novels since 1926 and the Modern Library ranked it at number 80 on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century, so I think he deserved to kiss his own backside a little. He was a frenetic socialite too, so he probably had a queue of flunkies puckering up for the job.

If you don’t have time to read all these novels then Brideshead Revisited was made into an eleven part BBC TV Drama in 1981 starring the marvellous Jeremy Irons, and because Evelyn and I both love a top 100, it was placed 10th on a list of the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes compiled by the British Film Institute, AND  it was in Time Magazine’s list of the 100 best TV shows of all-time. Kazam! It also got 8.3 stars on IMDB, so I’ve just ordered it on Amazon for £9.83.

Here are your EW facts, with absolutely no made up stuff whatsoever:

  • He was born in 1903 in London; the capital of England, and the most visited of the European cities. In your face Ljubljana
  • He had red hair and you can buy a t-shirt confirming this
  • He was educated at Lancing College and Oxford
  • His first wife was called Evelyn Gardner. Indeed! She had an affair which ended the marriage, proving that it’s not always the fellas that can’t keep their socks on the right feet
  • His second wife, Laura Herbert, was Evelyn Gardner’s cousin
  • He converted to Catholicism in 1930. Best not to mock the churchys
  • He died in 1966 in Somerset; birthplace of Cheddar cheese and Jeffrey Archer. I’m toppling over with facts-within-facts today. Isn’t learning fun!

He wrote loads of books. See ridiculously elongated list below:

1928   Decline and Fall

1930   Vile Bodies

1932   Black Mischief

1934   A Handful of Dust

1938   Scoop

1942   Put Out More Flags

1945   Brideshead Revisited

1947   Scott-King’s Modern Europe

1948   The Loved One

1950   Helena

1952   Men at Arms

1953   Love Among The Ruins

1954   Tactical Exercise

1955   Officers and Gentlemen

1957   The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold

These are only his works of fiction (the word prolific wouldn’t be an exaggeration). He also wrote lots of factual work about his travels and interests and plenty of short stories. I won’t name them here but I’m sure they’re wonderful.

If you would like to learn more about Evelyn Waugh then please read this charming interview in the Paris Review. The interviewer meets Waugh in the hallway of the Hyde Park Hotel, then when they go to his room Waugh pops on his PJs, lights a cigar and crawls into bed.  I would like to conduct all business in that way, however there’s only one job where you get to meet clients while in bed, and even though it’s one of the oldest professions, I feel it might be career limiting and a bit sticky.

Here is the Evelyn Waugh Society website, of which membership is $30 (or about 25 quid).  I think that gets you the privilege of being able to say “I’m a member of the Evelyn Waugh Society, what what”, and not much else.

*There is no evidence to suggest that he was a candlestick maker

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F. Scott Fitzgerald 1896 – 1940

6 Feb

F Scott Fitzgerald

You don’t write because you want to say something, you write because you have something to say.

F. Scott Fitzgerald

(OR as my mother used to say, if you don’t have anything nice to say then make something up and hope they can’t tell you’re lying)


Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald
was an American author and alcoholic. His wife was called Zelda (not to be mistaken for the princess conceived by Nintendo who gets kidnapped a lot and wears a cloak), and they named their only child Frances Scott Fitzgerald. If the first word that popped into your head was narcissism, then I am not alone in my judgement. Their only saving morsel was that they didn’t name her Frances Scott Junior (or JR if life without abbreviations leaves you cold and befuddled).

He wrote short stories for magazines as well as penning a few notable novels that include Tender is the Night and his most famous work The Great Gatsby, which has been made into a film 5 frickin times; 1926, 1949, 1974, 2000 and most recently in 2013. A Mr. Baz Luhrmann decided that it simply hadn’t been made enough times, and when you’ve run out of great ideas the 21st Century way is to steal someone else’s. I am not a fan of remakes because I don’t understand them. They’re copies. If I, being astoundingly multitalented, copied the Mona Lisa or Rolf Harris’ portrait of Bonnie Tyler, I would be a forger. And if I wrote a book about a tubby bear called Winnie who lives in a wood with a piglet, a donkey, a tiger and an owl, and is best friends with a boy called Chris, then you may call me a plagiarist. However, if you copy a film, giving it the Hollywood razzmatazz (I hate that word but it’s tossy enough for this occasion), then you’re a genius who deserves an Oscar and an Olympic sized swimming pool full of cash and exotic fruit whose names only the gods can pronounce.

Anyway, F was an alcoholic (which eventually killed him, quelle surprise) and his wife was bio-polar and spent her last days in a mental institution, where she died in a fire. And it is said that her spirit still haunts the car park that now stands in its place. The last bit was a lie but she did die in the fire, which is obviously tragic and not to be made light of. I understand and except my shame. F also had a mistress called Sheilah Graham who was a gossip columnist. Reap what you sow Sheilah with an h!

The facts you may need to know for a family board game and/or crossword:

  • Born 1896 in Saint Paul, Minnesota (known as the birthplace of the great F Scott Fitzgerald)
  • He wrote short stories and novels and that’s why he’s famous
  • Married Zelda Sayre in 1920 (who was also a writer)
  • He was mates with Earnest Hemingway (wasn’t everyone?)
  • He had a daughter called Frances Scott Fitzgerald (as ridiculed in above text)
  • Alcoholic
  • Died in 1940 of a heart attack (too much booze)

The Novels:

Sadly I couldn’t find an F Scott Fitzgerald fan-club, but I did stumble across The Great Gatsby Fanpop site. It’s so shocking I dare you to look. It has 204k likes on Facebook (seriously), 27% of fans have read The Great Gatsby more than 11 times (well good for you), and in the related clubs section it cites The Twilight Saga, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and William Shakespeare. I’m joining NOW.

Also:

Q. KEY, what kind of a name is that?

A. It’s not.

Next time we’ll find out if Roald Dahl preferred acid to magic mushrooms, and whether he though Willy Wonka was a danger to society or a misunderstood confectioner with a personality disorder and a velvet fetish.

Truman Capote 1924 – 1984

21 Jan

Truman Capote

“But I’m not a saint yet.

I’m an alcoholic.

I’m a drug addict.

I’m homosexual.

I’m a genius.”

― Truman Capote

(and let’s not forget modest)


Truman Capote
, or Bulldog to his friends (I shit you not), was an author, socialite (boozer) and an all-round controversial fellow (see image).  I imagine he was a bit like marmite and Jeremy Clarkson, only better dressed. He wrote short stories, plays and novels including Breakfast at Tiffany’s, made into a classic film (although he thought it was a bit poop), and inspired a truly despicable song that’s now going to be stuck in my head all afternoon. Grrrrrrr.

He was good friend with Harper Lee (To Kill a Mocking Bird) who helped him research his most critically acclaimed work, In Cold Blood; a non-fiction novel based on the murders of four members of the same family in a robbery at their farm in Kansas.  It’s not a comedy. Capote spent a lot of time interviewing the suspects for research, and when the two men were convicted and sentenced, they invited Capote to their hanging. Given the choice between a night in watching Downton Abbey and an execution, I would have gone with the former. On a scale of one to insane, Capote attended the latter. Honestly. This may have been his turning point into drugs and alcohol. Just a hunch!

Philip Seymour Hoffman tends to play crazy-eyed lunatics and manic depressives. He played Capote in the 2005 film of the same name (Capote). When people say, “If you could invite anyone famous and/or dead to your dinner party, who would you choose?”  My answer would be, “I don’t give a mangy lemming as long as crazy Hoffman doesn’t turn up uninvited”. He looks like the kind of guy who makes a puke face while coughing out half chewed food into his napkin, pretending to be inconspicuous while purposefully making you, and all your guests know that he thinks your food is inedible bilge. I wouldn’t deny that it wasn’t, but that’s not the point. He would also refuse to talk to anyone except the cat. So yeah, he’s not coming to my party. However, he did win an Academy award for his performance as Capote, so congrats.

The important stuff for quizzes and Trivial Pursuit:

  • He was born in 1924
  • His star sign was Libra (flirtatious and self-indulgent, apparently)
  • His life partner was Jack Dunphy (that means he was homosexual)
  • He threw an infamous party and invited lots of film stars and celebrities. Then he wrote mean things about them and they got mad. How we laughed.
  • He became addicted to drugs and alcohol toward the end of his life (standard)
  • He died in 1984 of liver cancer (that would probably be the booze then)

There is a Truman Capote Society on Facebook, so if you would like any more information please ask them. I have a feeling it’s not very big though, so maybe you could also help them improve on their 102 likes.

Harper Lee isn’t one of the Penguin chosen authors (tut tut), otherwise she would be next. Instead I have opted for F. Scott Fitzgerald. I believe he’s a bit of a tosser, but we’ll see.

 

John Wyndham 1903 – 1969

11 Jan

Postcard from the Penguin Collection of 100 Authors

“When a day you happen to know is Wednesday starts off by sounding like Sunday, there is something seriously wrong somewhere” – John Wyndham, Day of the Triffids

( Thus teaching us the dangers of too many narcotics)

John Wyndham Parkes Lucas Beynon Harris was a science fiction author, known to his friends as ‘Windy’. There is a 63% chance that this fact is probably true, however the only people who can answer that question are the John Wyndham Appreciation Society members, and as they don’t exist, there’s a 92% chance they won’t reply.

He wrote a book called ‘The Day of the Triffids’. You may have heard of the film, it’s a bit like Independence Day but more believable. The Midwich Cuckoos was also made into the film Village of the Damned twice. Proving, once again, that remakes are at least 1.5 stars less than the original on IMDB. He also wrote another book called The Chrysalids which is very good, along with some other books, because he was an author and that’s what they do.

It was tough deciding which author to write about first. Random or straight out of the box? I chose random on the realisation that I hadn’t heard of the first two authors (the shame), and dismissed the next one because he looked like a paedophile and/or fitness instructor. I’m sorry, I know I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but when the cover smells of sweat and pants a lot, it’s hard not to donate it to the WI bring and buy sale. So I thought hooray, John Wyndham must have been super cool and really interesting. He’s not.

These are the facts you may need to know for a pub quiz:

  • He was born in 1903
  • His star sign is cancer
  • In the Second World War he worked as a censor
  • He wrote some books and stuff
  • He married a woman in 1963
  • He didn’t have an affair and wasn’t a secret homosexual
  • His favourite drink was probably ale, or whisky, or tea
  • And he died in 1969 from something that killed him

Below are the books:

If you query my accuracy on this subject, then you’re not the only one.  If you would like some more information please try your luck with the John Wyndham Appreciation Society, or start a society of your own.

Next time I will be picking through the life of Truman Capote. I suspect it might be a lot longer than this one.

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