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WILL THIS DO? by Aubernon Waugh

WILL THIS DO?

The First Fifty Years of Aubernon Waugh

By Aubernon Waugh

Pub Date: June 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-7867-0519-1

A minor, triflingly amusing memoir by the British journalist best known for being Evelyn Waugh’s son. Though Waugh (The Last Word, 1980, etc.) has carved out a respectable niche as the editor of London’s Literary Review, has contributed to a number of other English publications, has even cranked out the occasional small book, he has not led the kind of life that usually justifies a memoir. He failed out of Oxford, accidentally shot himself in the army, then embarked on a literary/journalistic life, just this side of hackdom, with middling success. His account is all too typical of the gently retributive, dryly amusing, name-dropping memoir cranked out on the other side of the Atlantic, but it doesn—t travel well. Unless you—re a rabid anglophile, the passing squawks and the squabbles of the British literary world look, at several thousand miles removed, a lot like microbes fighting. And why do British memoirists insist on going on and on about their school days, as if the first 18 years were the only ones that mattered? Fans of Waugh päre, will find some worthwhile nuggets here. A letter to Nancy Mitford typifies his peevish, snitty attitude toward his children: “My two eldest children are here and a great bore . . . the boy [Auberon] lives for pleasure and is thought a great wit by his contemporaries. I have tried him drunk & I have tried him sober.” Waugh fils, fortunately, is made of sterner stuff, laving his childhood, indeed his life, with an appealing, gimlet-eyed acerbity. He has inherited much of his father’s gift for invective, and his account of the numerous libel actions he’s been involved with (England’s libel laws notoriously favor the plaintiff) are some of the better non-Evelyn parts of this book. Will this do? Perhaps not quite.