So… awhile ago someone I asked to read something I had written told me that it reminded them of Evelyn Waugh, who I had never read, and who, for a long time, I thought was a woman writer (Evelyn!). So, I put this on my list of things to do before I die, one more author I needed to check out. I often do not like famous authors, and not only that, quite often the feeling of dislike, frustration, or in-satisfaction is intense towards their writing, followed by a heart-sinking dismay in thinking how could millions or symbolically some huge and oppressive number of idiots ever laud and fawn over an author who is profoundly depressing, dry, boring, heavy-handed, sleazy or espousing the most noxious ideologies… Therefore, I am always wary when people recommend to me some famous big name because displeasure often ensues.
For this reason, I first went on the Internet, as a cautionary measure, to look up Waugh (and was once again reminded it’s a man).
Mr. Waugh passed this first test however. The biographical snippets and other literary criticism bits that I read on wikipedia and other book sites piqued my curiosity (the good, the bad, and the ugly) and I decided to take a chance with Mr. Waugh. Not with Brideshead Revisited, God knows how long that would take to read. No, let’s start with something short. Which just suited me amazingly well, because I love short stories with a passion. After a little searching, I found some, and clicked on “Tactical Exercise.”
It begins magnificently: “John Verney married Elizabeth in 1938, but it was not until the winter of 1945 that he came to hate her steadily and fiercely.”
Now just with that, you smile, because you have just read the first sentence and right there you are already expecting some good writing to follow, especially if you had read that the author is supposed to be “bitingly satirical” and capable of “brilliant social commentary.”
So, with very nice expectations and my curiosity piqued, I started the journey. But then, right away, the unexpected hit. The story very quickly became dark, and then darker and not what I had bargained for in terms of that amusing and more congenial, even if at times dramatic or hard-punching social criticism. I began to worry. All this darkness and dreariness and bitterness that just seemed to go from bad to worse was definitely off-putting and not what I had wanted to read. One more famous writer that I clearly would not like. As a result, I started skimming the text a bit, not too happy about what was happening and not wanting to emotionally invest myself just to get kicked in the stomach down the line. Just skip the details and get a sense quickly of how awful this story is going to develop – avoiding all emotional attachment. How dark and awful is Mr. Evelyn Waugh?
It certainly didn’t take long for me to start getting to the end – it is a short story after all! And that’s when something very unexpected happened. Something very clever. To my surprise, it turned out to be one great short story. And I ended up with an unexpected enjoyment of the tale and a happy little end to my first experience reading Evelyn. (How could anyone call a boy Evelyn?)
So, Mr. Evelyn Waugh has been approved – for the time being at least until more reading is done.
Anyways, I started this post by ever so lightly mischievously misleading you to think that I write like Waugh. I am curious to see after I have read more of him what aspects I could say match and which don’t. And so far, I am pleased that someone loosely associated my writing to his.
this post was slightly tweaked after it was first posted.