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A collection of acerbic newspaper columns by a well-known British journalist, the son of novelist Evelyn (himself no slouch at acid-slinging). For a while, the younger Waugh's eccentric point of view sustains interest (he tends to side with the minority on almost every issue); then the curare-tipped jokes carry the day; but finally, the man's sheer nastiness does in his brillance. Much of this collection, originally published in England under the dull title of Another Voice, deals with rather arcane British political and social issues and thus will be impenetrable to all but the most Anglo-philiac of Americans. But now and then, Waugh spreads his bile over more familiar topics. Of the aged, he writes that ""many old people still have useful skills, like plucking chickens, cleaning rabbits, darning socks."" Welfare recipients are described as ""a generation of ignorant, spoiled, and useless louts."" And like some contemporary W.C. Fields, Waugh urges children to ""persecute any and every Father Christmas they see."" At first Waugh is fair-minded enough to savage himself as well, for example describing his response to a letter from a woman threatening suicide as ""quite exceptionally odious."" He can also be saluted for handling subjects no American journalist would touch--one column includes a detailed discussion of children's bowel movements. As the insults mount, so do the laughs. Whether one overwhelms the other depends on your tolerance for waspish gadflies. The verdict here: buy some insect repellent instead.

Pub Date: July 29th, 1986
Publisher: Little, Brown