Friday, July 11, 2008

The answer is "no."

I finally got back to work this week (haven't I said this here before?) after weeks of relocation. This week I finished interviews with photographer Taryn Simon and sculptor Michael Rea, reviewed The End of Europe, and updated The Foghorn.

I'm also catching up on a wonderful backlog of emails and tips from Grant, including these from a "treasure trove" of Evelyn Waugh anecdotes:

From Evelyn Waugh, Portrait of a Country Neighbour, Frances Donaldson, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1967.
He entertained himself with grandiose projects [at Piers Court]. He built what became known as The Edifice —a semi-circular stone wall about ten feet in height, surmounted by battlements and with a paved area beneath it. When this was finished he advertised for human skulls to adorn the battlements. He received a surprising number of replies, which I doubt if he had expected, and he had to refuse most of the offerings. The Edifice was not a great success. Many people thought it hideous and Evelyn himself was not satisfied with it, although he got pleasure out of the building. [pg. 23]

From Evelyn Waugh: A Biography, Selina Hastings, Sinclair-Stevenson, London, 1994.
For Evelyn, it [a trip to the US in Nov 1948] was a joyless experience, the unbeautiful campuses, the characterless hotels — in New Orleans he smashed open the window of his air-conditioned room with his stick ... [pg. 536]

From To Keep the Ball Rolling: The Memoirs of Anthony Powell: Volume Two, Messengers of Day, Heinemann, London, 1978.
One night [at W's family home on North End road] Waugh asked if I would like to hear the opening chapters of a novel he was writing. ... Waugh's embryonic novel — then called Picaresque, or the Making of an Englishman — was the first ten thousand words, scarcely altered at all later, of Decline and Fall. The manuscript was written with a pen on double-sheets of blue lined-foolscape, the cipher EW printed at the top of the first page of each double-sheet. There were hardly any alterations in the text. ... Some months after the reading aloud of these chapters — probably a moment towards the end of the same year [1927] — I asked Waugh how the novel was progressing. He replied: 'I've burnt it.' [pp. 21-2]

And, while we're on the topic of Mr. Waugh, Allan Massie of the Spectator asks, "Can a novelist write too well?"

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