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[BOOKS] ✮ Scoop ✸ Evelyn Waugh –

Orwell said Waugh was almost as good a novelist as it is possible to be while holding untenable opinions Outside the owls hunted maternal rodents and their furry brood funny how he mercilessly speared sentimentality, given that it s such a fundamental part of the fascism that he seemed quite partial to But then internal logic was never the strong suit of bigots. Second time reading.File this under guilty pleasures I m, well outraged isn t the right word, made weary by the dreariness of the other reviews of this book plot summaries, gestures towards its transhistorical narratives or towards its capturing that peculiar moment before the Nazis invaded Poland , and hamfisted comparisons to P G Wodehouse different sort of writer entirely, although, hilariously, Wodehouse does get a shoutout as the plot winds down And then, well, there s the fact that the book is terribly racist. It s not racist in a Mein Kampf or Turner Diaries kind of way there s no particular program Waugh wants to push but the novel nevertheless goes hand in thoughtless hand with the postwar atrocities committed by Britain in Kenya Is this attitude inevitable Simply a record of its time Of course not Don t be foolish.That said, it s delightful I m of course reminded of A J Liebling s war journalism The plot should be a model for plots everywhere The odd mixture of affection and contempt is characteristic of the best humor writing see, for example, Diary of a Nobody or Cold Comfort Farm I m going a bit too far here it s clear that Waugh finds the expropriation of Africa s natural resources by European colonial powers distasteful And that s something.I d suggest, however, starting with The Loved One. Lord Copper, Newspaper Magnate And Proprietor Of The Daily Beast , Has Always Prided Himself On His Intuitive Flair For Spotting Ace Reporters That Is Not To Say He Has Not Made The Odd Blunder, However, And May In A Moment Of Weakness Make Another Acting On A Dinner Party Tip From Mrs Algernon Smith, He Feels Convinced That He Has Hit On Just The Chap To Cover A Promising Little War In The African Republic Of Ishmaelia One Of Waugh S Most Exuberant Comedies, Scoop Is A Brilliantly Irreverent Satire Of Fleet Street And Its Hectic Pursuit Of Hot News 2.5 starsI ve read little Waugh apart from Brideshead Revisited, which I loved Waugh is writing there about the decline of the upper classes and writing about people he knew This is a comic novel about Journalism and the newspaper industry and is a very effective satire Lord Copper, the tyrannical and megalomaniac newspaper boss was said to be based on Lord Northcliffe, but was probably also part Beaverbrook and Hearst The story is based on Waugh s experiences working for the Daily Mail as a foreign correspondent covering Mussolini s invasion of Abyssinia in 1935 Ethiopia is changed to the imaginary state of Ishmaelia Lord Copper owner of the Daily Beast has learnt that something is going on in Ishmaelia As his best correspondent has recently transferred to the Daily Brute, he is in need of a new one A certain Mr John Boot, a writer, is recommended As it happens William Boot writes an obscure countryside column for the paper He is mistakenly called to London and given the job Boot is sent to Ishmaelia with large amounts of useless luggage, where he meets lots of other journalists, including Americans and French They look for communists and fascists and for the promised civil war Of course little is going on so the journalists make it up William has adventures, falls briefly in love William also has his moment when something actually does happen There is a good cast of supporting characters many of whom are based on people Waugh knew The character of William Boot is said to be loosely based on Bill Deedes who had been with Waugh covering the situation in Abyssinia Deedes was 22 at the time and his newspaper had sent him out with a quarter of a ton of baggage Deedes spent the next 65 years denying this This is a funny and well written novel and was in the Observer list of the one hundred greatest novels of all time The satire of the newspaper industry still has relevance today and is very pertinent However there are problems for me with the whole This was written in 1938 and one would expect with a robust writer like Waugh some issues with language That is an understatement Waugh is anti Semitic and racist and his approach to other races is execrable He was a clear believer in hierarchy and very misanthropic Cyril Connolly referred to him as a permanent adolescent Christopher Hitchens has argued that Waugh s many faults, dislikes and contempt for other human beings makes his cruelty funny as a novelist and writer I remain unconvinced and Orwell who was an exact contemporary made a thoughtful comment in some notes for an unwritten essay on Waugh Waugh was almost as good a novelist as it is possible to be while holding untenable opinions Waugh s satire of tabloid journalism and its complacent corruption is still prescient, but his attitudes and opinions are awful This book made me laugh out loud, something that books rarely do Then again, I don t read comical fiction Still, I suspect that, were I to look into the genre, Waugh would stand out in the crowd.This is the third book that I ve read from Waugh s work, and of the three it is the clear favorite Along with his usual talent for razzing British societal mannerisms, Waugh adds his satirical take on foreign policy in a small, developing country that is, ostensibly, under threat of civil war What starts as a jab against hyperbolic journalism and a total lack of understanding amongst policy makers turns into an absurd spectacle that even includes a measure of swashbuckling.It feels like Waugh had fun writing this tale, and his powers of description are so apt that the feeling is catching Here, for example, Waugh sketches the front yard of a woman who rents out rooms on her property The Pension Dressler stood in a side street and had, at first glance, the air rather of a farm than of a hotel Frau Dressler s pig, tethered by one hind trotter to the jamb of the front door, roamed the yard and disputed the kitchen scraps with the poultry He was a prodigious beast Frau Dressler s guests prodded him appreciatively on their way to the dining room, speculating on how soon he would be ripe for killing The milch goat was allowed a narrower radius those who kept strictly to the causeway were safe, but she never reconciled herself to this limitation and, day in, day out, essayed a series of meteoric onslaughts on the passers by, ending, at the end of her rope, with a jerk which would have been death to an animal of any other species One day the rope would break she knew it and so did Frau Dressler s guests 156 Phrases such as meteoric onslaught are an excellent example of the skillful hand that Waugh brings to language.Only one aspect of this book did not work, whatsoever, and that is the rampant racism that Waugh shows for black people It is a sad and foolish shortcoming, much like the racism that Robert Howard succumbed to in his adventure stories It is possible that Waugh is going for humor when he tosses around slurs and epithets, but if this is the case, he goes too far and employs them with a discomforting fluency.Otherwise, I very much enjoyed this book I trust Waugh to make me laugh, and I am sure that I will turn to his work again in the future. Review was first posted on BookLikes nearly two weeks now, the bent and creased copy of Scoop sitting on my desk has been staring at me Patiently Waiting whether I was going to write a review or not On finishing the book I had exactly two feelings about it 1 As far as satire of the press goes, Waugh created the most delicious and entertaining spoof I could have imagined However,2 This book contained so many openly racist and chauvinist remarks that even Fleming s Live and Let Die which I had finished just before Scoop looks like an enlightened and unbiased work promoting intercultural understanding For the best part of the last two weeks, I have looked at my old copy of Scoop and wondered whether to chuck it onto the charity shop pile or straight into the bin It s not a book I would recommend unreservedly Even looking at Waugh as a representative of a time when sentiments of racial or cultural stereotyping were common and widely accepted, I wonder whether there was a need for it in Scoop because this was not a part of the book that was satirical Or, if it was, this did not come across well.So, while I am glad that I have read Scoop, I expected Much. Waugh followed the near perfect Handful of Dust, with Scoop, an absolutely perfect Newspaper Adventure that satirizes journalism, especially as practiced by foreign correspondents This was the perfect topic for Waugh not only did he work throughout a career as a foreign correspondent, journalists are a recurring stock character in his fiction Inevitably, Waugh portrays journalists as drunk, fast talking adventurers, who are not above making up a story in their pursuit of fame and fortune the basic story finds young gentleman William Boot who writes a gardening column is mistakenly sent to the african nation of Ishmaelia to cover the civil war that is supposed to be raging there Instead of finding a civil war, Boot finds the mix of journalists, freebooters, marxists, fascists, and ex pats who were a regular feature of life in the Third World throughout the 20th century In fact, if you have read PJ O Rourke s Holidays In Hell, you ll be amazed how these characters survived 50 years after Waugh was writing Ishmaelia is a Liberia style nation which is being fought over by successive groups of communist subversives including a college educated boxer from Alabama , sinister fascists, and assorted plunderers Boot manages to run into everybody, and inadvertently becomes a famous writer Waugh s knowledge of Africa, and the people fighting over its spoils, gives this book a verisimilitude that is rare in the world of satire Some gripers, I see, have declared this book to be fatally flawed because it is racist They are absolutely right The relentless mockery of white anglo saxons in this book is absolutely merciless No one is spared The landed class is portrayed as impoverished bores living in drafty manors Newspaper publishers are portrayed as pompous starched shirts who live to make windy speeches at awards banquets African explorers are portrayed as amoral profiteers stealing the natural resources from African natives Journalists are not heroic Dan Rathers who Speak Truth To Power they are drunk ignorant rascals who are little better than fiction writers Waugh even manages to take some gratuitous whacks at such sacrosanct elements of British life like gardeners and WW1 vets Still, I was able to read through all of this cruelty, and I would urge sensitive types to do the same or, at least, get a grip This is Waughian satire at its best It s tightly plotted, filled with detail, and very funny In fact, The quality of his craftsmanship is at a very high level His ability to set a scene whether at a manor house, a newspaper office, a colonial outpost, or a stuffy banquet gives this book a grounding in reality that makes the humor even biting if you just want to read one satire by Waugh, this would be the place to start with Dust as the best of his serious books. Journalists seem to love this guy He s awfully snarky for a writer from the 1930s but oh so good A quick read, Scoop is about a man named John Boot gets accidentally sent to Ishmaila as a foreign correspondent The fellow manages to report some news after blazing through his budget and falling in love with a married gold digger named Katchen Meanwhile Waugh paints a hilarious portrait of foreign correspondent idiots creating fake news and running around chasing ridiculous leads It s not the nicest picture of journalists, but pretty funny And Waugh creates the most ridiculous situations in his novels. There s a song on Tusk by Fleetwood Mac where the chorus is not that funny, is it repeated over over, this did spring into my mind as I was a reading Scoop but I opposed Lindsey Buckingham s punkish sneer with an urbane no, but it is amusing as in it kind of makes you nearly smile inwardly almost the whole time except when of course as you must expect this being Evelyn Waugh talking about a fictionalized Ethiopia in 1938 you hit the old colonial casual racism so be warned that there are three or four n words, one darky and one coon and a couple of yids but beyond that the usual farce of ridiculous white people blundering around and surprisingly less caricatured black people trying to extract the maximum amount of western currency from them while they do so, and picking them up when the goat connects with their rear ends This is one of Robert McCrum s 100 Best Novels in English EVER, so I think that indicates you can t believe a word that Robert McCrum says, because if ever there was a three star novel Scoop is it You might say that the way fake news is created and parleyed into real news very prescient of Evelyn Waugh is a solid subject for satire, but you may also say that treating western manipulation of African countries as a contemptuously easy chess game between various Powers is as Lindsey says NOT THAT FUNNY. Biting and cruel and ever so Waugh, this read aged well enough in its characters and mostly well in the events that illuminate them I read this about 35 years ago, alongside Waugh in Abyssinia, for a journalism course I am sure that s the reason I liked the book as well as I did, since I disliked William Boot with vigorous and vitriolic epithetry.Lord Copper, the vile capitalist, was Falstaffian fun, but I suspect I d find him less so in my own old manhood All in all, a slightly too small armchair from younger, limber days, yet always among my mental furniture.