THE DIARIES OF EVELYN WAUGH by Evelyn Waugh

THE DIARIES OF EVELYN WAUGH

KIRKUS REVIEW

All different kinds of people are going to be disappointed by these heavily heralded diaries--kept by England's most acerbic schoolboy, playboy, traveler, soldier, and novelist. Scandal-seekers, aroused by news of London brouhahas, will find: some disapproving prep-school comments on boy-boy liaisons (Waugh destroyed the presumably homosexual Oxford diary); in the partying Twenties, page after page of "little lesbian tarts and joyboys," unfamiliar footnoted names, flat decadence ("Olivia as usual behaved like a whore and was embraced on a bed by various people"), and an astonishing, tiresome amount of drinking; and, the one true poison plum, Randolph Churchill on a mission to enemy-occupied Yugoslavia--coughing, farting, always drunk, apparently deserving of Waugh's nowfamous line (after 1964 surgery): "it was a typical triumph of modern science to find the only part of Randolph that was not malignant and remove it." So much for scandal. Students of the English literary scene won't do much better, since Wangh rarely discusses the books he read and reviewed, and his meetings with the Famous resulted in only the briefest notation: Noel Coward--"no brains"; the Sitwells--"Sachie liked talking about sex. Osbert very shy. Edith wholly ignorant." And admirers of the novels will certainly find Waugh's raw, raw materials here (a Welsh prep school, the Bright Young People, arduous travels in Africa and South America, WW II sorties), but hardly any references to the writer's craft appear. As for the man himself--the conversion to Catholicism happens between diaries as do the shattering breakup of his first marriage and his nervous collapse. Only in the last "boiled eggs and narcotics" years, along with scorn for his children, increasing boredom, and fears for society ("How long will Liberty, Diversity, Privacy survive anywhere?"), does the super-critical voice explore inward. Anti-Semitic, racist, labeling those unfortunate enough to cross his path as "odious," "hideous," and "stupid," Waugh put his worst self and much dull detail into these remarkably shallow, though terribly stylish, jottings. Scholars may want to go digging, but those who treasure Tony Last, Guy Crouchback, et al., are advised to steer clear.
Pub Date: Oct. 25th, 1977
ISBN: 0753827387
Page count: 896pp
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1999




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