Tag Archives: authors

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

John Steinbeck 1902 – 1968

22 Mar

John Steinbeck

 

I am impelled, not to squeak like a grateful and apologetic mouse, but to roar like a lion out of pride in my profession – John Steinbeck

(Well said that man)

John Steinbeck was an American author and the Nobel Prize winner for literature (respect). You will probably have heard of him if you’re interest in social history or have ever had a crush on James Dean.

One of his most famous novels is the acclaimed classic The Grapes of Wrath (I’m sure there’s a joke about haemorrhoid cream in that title). Written in 1939, it is set during the Great Depression in America and focusses on the Joad family, who are forced to leave their farm in Oklahoma due to the economic downturn, to seek work in California. Sounds as exciting as a bouquet made from never-ending spread sheets and re-runs Prison Break. The real appeal for me is that it was banned and publically burned in America (gosh). Starting to sound better, yes? Also, the late, great Bill Hicks’ famous last words were based on Tom Joad’s final speech, “I left in love, in laughter, and in truth, and wherever truth, love and laughter abide, I am there in spirit.” Don’t it make you want to weep into a huge embroidered hanky made of silk and sorrow? Personally it makes me wonder how so many famous people had time to factor a speech into their dying minutes. I’m going to write my final words in my will, just in case the cruelty of death doesn’t allow me my 15 minutes of profundity. It will go something like “I came, I saw, I left empty handed”. A bit like a Next sale.

Of Mice and Men is another controversial book by our new friend, John boy. It appears on the American Library Association‘s list of the Frequently Challenged Books of 21st Century, along with My Mom’s Having A Baby! A Kid’s Month-by-Month Guide to Pregnancy and Captain Underpants. Sometimes I can’t express my astonishment of the human race. There is also a band called Of Mice and Men. They’re great if you like listening to scrap cars being crushed with people inside them screaming for mercy. Should you be able listen to a whole song without your ears spontaneously combusting and melting your new Bose headphones you had for Christmas from your Auntie Jocasta who lives in the Yemen, perhaps you could congratu-tweet them on @OMandM.

Another notable novel by J-Stein is East of Eden. It was made into a film in 1955 starring James “I may look dashing in leather but I certainly can’t drive” Dean. It was pretty good.

On a personal note (this IS supposed to be a biography), Becky was married three times. He married his first wife Carol Henning in 1930, the second Gwyndolyn Conger, in 1943 (there may have been some crossover hanky panky going on) and his third, Elaine Scott, in 1950. He had two sons with Gwynie, Thom and John IV, who I found out (against my better judgement) wasn’t a member of the royal family or a racehorse.

Here’s a summary for the literature section of your Friday afternoon work quiz:

  • Born 27th February (same date as my mum) 1902 (not the same year) in Salinas, California
  • Pisces (in Greek mythology Pisces represents the fish into which Aphrodite and her son transformed in order to escape the monster Typhon. Nothing to do with John Steinbeck, but an interesting fact none the less)
  • Married three times
  • Two sons
  • Liked chili
  • Died of heart disease on 20th December 1968
J-Stein hipster pink T

J-Stein hipster pink T

For any die hard ‘J to the S’ fans, Zazzle sell this magnificent John Steinbeck t-shirt for a mere £19.95 ($25.00) plus P&P. Isn’t he a handsome fellow! Plus it’ll keep your friends guessing for ages. Is it the Just for Men guy? Is it the fellow your uncle works with at the animal rescue centre who smells like mung beans?

For more information on Mr. Steinbeck please visit this outstandingly atrocious website http://www.johnsteinbeck.com/index.php. Enjoy!

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