Waugh Wednesday

Last week in early hours of morning I was awake so tuned in to the revamped radio Four Extra the new name for radio seven .To hear they were going to broadcast two short stories by Evelyn Waugh my ears pricked up always half aware of short stories the two I heard were wonderful .So I checked next day and found a couple of editions of his complete short stories  on Amazon a penguin and Everyman Library one .I loved Everyman books ,but unable to get on at moment ,so I ve borrowed the libraries edition for now ,until I can buy it .But this has led to the creation of Waugh Wednesday .I use love my good friend robs days  on one writer and have been trying to find a worthy subject and I loved the novels of Waugh I love so have chosen wednesday from now on for next year or so for all thing Waugh ,There are 38 pieces in the collection ,I ve two novels also a number of films adapted from his books .Plus the wonderful Brideshead Revisited TV series to talk about and discuss.


I love the everyman cover.can’t wait to get a copy of book for myself

What Waugh have you read ?

What  is your favourite ?


Nostromo by Joseph Conrad

Joseph Conrad or to give him his proper name Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski ,was a polish born writer he had a varied life ,working as a sailor ,where the kernel for this book came after a visit to latin america ,he settle in england in his twenties but still travelled he didn’t learn english til his twenties .

Nostromo is a reread for me I read it in my late teens about twenty years ago and like it but didn’t love the book ,but when I read the secret history of costaguna a book based on this book I was advised to reread this by Frank Wynne on twitter and I am pleased I choose to do so ,as the book seemed to have grown in 20 years I think as I m older and more cynical and less idealistic nowadays the book appeals more .So what is the book about well about a silver mine ,a revolution ,a mine owner and Nostromo the man who could save the day .The book shows what a melting pot small harbours where at these  times in latin America where at this time a mix of expatriates ,natives and sailors on shore leave add to a heavy brew the ownership of mine a coup in the air and a pile of silver ,the book moves at a rip-roaring pace you meet a myriad of interesting characters a lot you feel Conrad would have met on his travels when sailing .Nostromo is like some of the great figures from south american history a european that becomes drawn into the struggle for freedom .

In the time of Spanish rule ,and for many years afterwards ,the town of Sulaco – the luxuriant beauty of orange gardens bears witness to its antiquity – had never been commercially anything more important than a coasting port with a fairly large local trade in ox hides and indigo .

The opening lines of Nostromo describe the town of Sulaco .

The story is so modern I felt if you crossed the names and replaced with arabic names you could have the current situation in the arabic world or with african names it could be cotes d ivoire ,at thew heart of the book is greed and money who owns it for silver you could have oil or cocoa in its place .My edition was from Oxford world classics thanks to Kirsty and had a great appendix with loads of facts and explanations on words and sources for the story .As for th story of the silver mine I was reminded of a programme from the early nineties where the radio dj Andy Kershaw and singer Billy Bragg followed the south american silver trail ,at one point we were told there was enough silver mined in the 1800’s to build a silver bridge from south america to Spain .The book shows what greed and colonialism had done to south america using an imagined country was a good idea from Conrad as it could be any of the countries in South America over the late 1800’s to early 1900’s as they all became republics .This book made me think I should read some more classic books than I do .

Have you read this book ?

Have you reread a book and found it better with age on rereading ?


source -review copy from New directions -this month

Sir Thomas Browne lived in Norwich and wrote on a myriad of subjects Medicine,geography ,Philosophy and Spirituality ,all during the English renaissance during the 17th century .His prose style influence both Jorge Luis Borges and W G Sebald .The book opens with a passage from Sebald’s rings of Saturn about Browne .

For Browne things  of this  kind ,unspoiled by the passage of time ,are symbols of indestructibility  of the human soul assured by scripture ,which the physician ,firm though may be in his christian faith ,perhaps secretly doubts ,and since the heaviest stone of melancholy .

Sebald on Browne’s view re the found urns mention in urn burial .

Urn Burial is a 86 page text from Thomas Brown ,that follows his reaction and musings on the meaning of some intact roman Burial urns that were found in Norwich ,so we go on a journey through Browne’s words from roman times and the reason for ashes in an urn ,things like a coin to pay your way to Elysian fields ,to Browne’s own time and how people celebrate remember and fear death .The prose drift here and their building up to last chapter a wonderful lament on life and death ,how every man has this struggle with his own mortality ,this last chapter is considered the greatest bit of renaissance writing and the beginning of essay and thesis writing in english .

Now since these dead bones have already out lasted the living ones of Methuselah ,and in a yard under ground and thin wall of clay ,outworn all the strong and specious buildings above it ; and quietly rested under the drums and trampling of three conquests ; what prince can promise such diuturnity unto his reliquesor might gladly say

sic ego componi versus in ossa velium .

The opening of chapter five of urn burial .

Now to be truthful I found this hugely touching and very deep piece I will definitely be reading more of Browne’s work and rereading this as I think I found a life long Passion in this man and his thoughts ,the link to Sebald and Borges is easy to see ,Brown darts and dash from here to there like the other two did in the later fiction ,it is like a child trying to take apart a clock picking at the workings ,this is how Browne tackles the discovery of these urns ,posing questions on them and trying to give us the reader the answer  .This is my first work by Brown for further reading and articles I strongly recommend going over to Kevin’s blog the aquarium of Vulcan where he has written numerous pieces on Sir Thomas Browne ,also his connections to Norwich and the surrounding area .so if you like Borges and Sebald I would try so Browne and see if you agree with me  on how this ,mans words influenced them .

have you read Browne ?

one last thought Borges on Browne

Well, I felt that I owed so much to Kafka that I really didn’t need to exist. But, really, I am merely a word for Chesterton, for Kafka, and Sir Thomas Browne- I love him. I translated him into seventeenth century Spanish and it worked very well. We took a chapter out of Urne Buriall and we did that into Quevado’s Spanish and it went very well- the same period, the same idea of writing Latin in a different language, writing Latin in English, writing Latin in Spanish.

The hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Well Halloween was wondering what to read and though oh I ll reread the Hound of the Baskervilles it is a short book and can be easily read in a day ,Now this was my first reread since my early twenties of this book ,I first read under the covers as a ten-year old ,this time I was struck by a number of things ,the cleverness of the writing using diary ,and telegrams as different chapters .The way Doyle built up the moor as a character in itself ,dark sorrowful and full of mystery .The other thing I had in my head was a spinning wheel of the versions of this book I ve seen on dvd and film from Basil Rathbone ,Peter Cushing ,Jeremy Brett and their sidekicks ,at different points in the book I had a different Holmes in my mind’s eye .one my favourite lines is .

why should a man walk on tiptoe down the alley ?

he was running ,watson -running desperately ,running for his life ,running until his heart burst and fell dead upon his face .

running from what ?

there lies our problem .there are indications that the man was crazed with fear before ever he began to run

how can you say that ?

I m not going to mention much on the story I think most people know the story SIR Charles Baskerville ,dies under strange circumstances ,his nephew comes to england ,there is a myth of an evil curse of a demon hound on the Baskerville family ,Watson goes the Baskerville seat in devon on the dark moors ,e

he meets the locals reports to Holmes ,then Holmes comes into the picture again and there is a shocking climax ! .Watson is the main character in most of this book ,he comes across as an able doctor ,a fairly observant man and a prefect sounding board for Holmes ,Watson’S view is very black and white he is the parts that Holmes character doesn’t have ,compassion ,able to interact with people more openly .well as ever I loved this book it is a true classic in crime lit and the best of the Holmes novels .Now as I said I imagined the different film versions ,I think the best of them is Jeremy BNretts it is in many ways nearest the novel ,but can recommend the Ian Richardson version as it has Brian Blessed ,doing what he does best shouting .



Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh

Evelyn Waugh is probably one of the best known writers of the first half of the twentith century ,he born in london ,his father was a editor and publicist he studied at oxford where he met henry green andbrian howard and numerous other of the leading lights of the bright young things ,he work as as journalist before the publication of this book his debut novel .

Decline and fall ,focuses on Paul Pennyfather ,he is the archtypical charcater of waugh’s book a man that studies at Oxford like waugh himself ,Pennyfather has a spot of trouble and is sent down from Oxford for indecnt behaviour ,unable to get any money from his family he has to go out in to the wide world and get a job ,this draws him to wales and a lowly public school as a master ,he arrives at the school and meets a wonderful cast of  misfits and rogues the are the masters of the school ,he has many mishaps at the school whilst ,on the sportsday he meets and v=eventually gets employed by the beautiful Margot Beste Chetwynde to teach her ,having accidently shoot someone on the sportsday a hasty retreat is required ,he falls for this glamorous women ,and wants to marry her ,but he dosen’t know she runs a high class brothel andthat is the source of her money .

Margot Beste -Chetwynde had two houses in england one in London and the other in Hampshire her London home was built in the reign of William and Mary ,was,by universal consent the most beautiful building between bond street and Park lane ,but opion divide on the subject of her country house this was very new indeed ,in fact it was scarcely finished when Paul went to stay there at the beginning of the easter holidays .

the opening of the second part of Decline and fall when Paul and Margot start to get together .

The book is still funny after all this time and has in the authour notes the restored words of Waugh please bear in mind it is meant to be funny ,penneyfather is like Jim Dixon thirties years before Amis wrote lucky Jim ,a bungler ,a man that falls from one diaster to the next ,it is also one of the best school comdies I ve read ,humour isn’t always the first think you think of when you think of Waugh ,shame he actually did it rather well .So if you want to spend a coup[le of days or a long evening having a good laugh and revisiting 20’s and the bright young things I recomend this book highly .

Party Going by Henry Green


Henry green the non de plume of Henry Vincent Yorke  was one of the bright young things of the twenties ,he was born Tewksbury and went to Eton and Oxford he knew Anthony Powell and Evelyn Waugh his two great contemporaries of the time .and was considered a modernist writer along side Virginia Woolf ,frank Kermode describe the book as a mythical allusion .

The book centres on a group of the bright young things  as they are due to travel to a country house party all the rage them days ,but are delayed over night due to the london fog ,stopping the train and are confined to the nearest hotel ,the station hotel .so as the hotel fills we meet max and his beauty of an on off girlfriend the beautiful Anabella ,in no doubt based on one of the numerous beauties of the bright young thing era .,we also dash in and out of the servants as the dutifully look after the belonging of the party ,so over the space of the book and the next four hours we find out bits about the characters and there lives which on the surface seem rich and for-filled ,in fact aren’t that much .There lives being quite one dimensional party ,image and keeping up with the friends.

It did make Julia nervous and she moved to Alex where he happened to be teasing Angela because he might be nervous too which would comfort her .People who weren’t nervous were useless because they didn’t know what it meant ,but however he was ,and if he wasn’t than Julia felt she would like to make him be ,he would comfort her after all he was a man .

early on Julia and Max and the station

The is much humor in this book and also pathos for the characters as there obviously based on some of greens circle at the time ,the story does at time darts here and there and is quite hard to follow at times but it all adds to the hustle and bustle of the busy station ,on surface this is a great story ,whether Kerrmode’s was right about the links to Greek myths is right I can’t fully tell there are passages in this book that reminds me of what little I ve read of greek myths ,but I ve not the knowledge of greek myths to go in to full depth so as a story of four hours in a hectic station hotel as a group of characters in  the thirties it works for me the shallowness of the main characters is all to easy to see ,also how the people who deal with them I.E the servant struggle at times with their madness .A great read and there first of the three bright young thing books I ve chosen to read a review of Waugh decline and fall will follow .and a review of Anthony Powell very soon .

Winstons books new and old

Some recent arrivals at Winston’s towers –

second-hand book sale –

The rendezvous and other stories by Daphne Du Maurier I ve read a couple of her novels Rebecca being my favourite ,saw this collection of haunting stories and thought they’d make perfect winter evening reading stories focus on husbands breaking loose ,a married women committing suicide and a steamer being saved by a mysterious ship ,sounds wonderful .

Agents and Patients by Anthony Powell –

Now this book is from his dance to the music of time cycle ,it flows another young man Blore-smith from Oxford via paris and Berlin in the thirties with a large chunk of humour ,should be interesting Simon at inside books recently reviewed another Powell here and found his humour had dated slightly ,so be interested to see if this is still fresh .

Clochemerle by Gabriel Chevaller

This is a satire from a french writer ,has been reprint a number of times last time 2004 ,this is a 50’s penguin thou my main reason for buying it as I love the old orange and white covers ,set in a french village follows the struggle as they try to build public toilets in the village ,sounds funny .

Journey by Moonlight by Antal Szerb –

A real find a Pushkin press book ,from a Hungarian writer ,it is the story of follow Milahy on his honeymoon in Italy as he struggles with his past and marriage  considered on of the best novels from Hungary .


from Annabel at Gaskell ,the Balkan Trilogy by Olivia Manning ,I was reading about this after remember the tv series a few weeks ago and had marked it down as a book to get the a few day later Annabel was want to get rid of some books and this was one ,I was lucky to be sent it thank her greatly ,the books follow Guy and Harriet a couple through the Balkans during the second world war .

received for review –

Urn Burial by SIR Thomas Browne

Thomas Browne was a writer ,Physician among other things ,a look at Kevin’s site aquarium of vulcan will tell you loads about him ,this slim volume a new edition by New Directions in the pearl series ,is a discussion musing on the discovery of roman urns in the 17th century and to mans experience on this mortal coil and struggle with mortality ,there is a forward by W G Sebald from rings of saturn were he talks about Browne and seeing his skull .

C BY TOM McCarthy

This is my second booker shortlist read this year ,Tom McCarthy is considered the next big thing in british lit and this book as very technically clever .Well I enjoyed it ,at times found it very hard going .The book centres on the life of Serge Carafax a young man born on the cusp of a new century the twentieth century ,he is born ,to a family working at a deaf school,he soon becomes fascinated by the new technologies that are appearing and becomes a expert in radio and electrical equipment this sends him through the main events in the first few decades of the twentieth century ,he loves the planes in the first world war and ends up getting caught and made a prisoner and at a prisoner of war camp getting involved in escape plans and caring for his fellow prisoners ,post war he ends up in the swinging twenties of london and the drug scene ,then becomes a wireless operator for what was the internet of its day as it was a   front row technology of the day and led many a young man like Serge to the far-flung corners of what was the British empire then ,well that is the simple overview of the book .but this book is like a cryptic crossword each page has layers and meanings ,there is a great deal of symbolism about technology and its place in society,war drugs ,travel many things cleverly woven .McCarthy has firmly placed himself in the top echelons of British writers .

The static’s like the sound of thinking .Not any single person thinking ,collectively ,It’s bigger than that, wider – and more dialect .It’s like the sound of thought itself,its a hum and rush .Each night ,when Serge drops in on it ,it recoils with a wail ,then rolls back to the crackling waves that carry him away ,all rudderless ,untill his fingers nudging the dial , can get some traction on it at all ,

opening of chapter 3 shows Serges connection with radios and there workings .

I m not going say I got this book completely I d be lying, it is a book that maybe takes a couple of readings to break its shell completely but as my first reading I loved it ,echos of Pychon and Bolano as it says on the cover maybe even early Ballard in places .If it wins the booker it will be a worthy winner . This is my last of the shortlisted reads ,Did have Finklers question from library but they wanted it back ,so will read at a later date .





The book is an autobiography come biography about Vivian Mackerrell and about Colin’s own life ,Vivian may be part of the inspiration for the film character Withnail from the film Withnail and I .Now Bruce Robinson has said he was part of inspiration and knew Vivian when they shared a house whilst at drama school ,Colin Knew Vivian from an earlier time growing up in Nottingham .THE book starts with a bit about both there childhoods and Colin’s reason for writing the book .The first thing he does is trying to find relatives meeting his brother and his partners .He also contacts Bruce Robinson he didn’t want to be interviewed but offers photos and letters also other people Colin may talk too .Vivian grew in Nottingham spending time in his late teens round the playhouse in Nottingham this sparked an interest in acting and lead to him going to london to study where he meets Bruce ,David Dundas a musician and composer ,Micheal Elphick a fellow actor ,they live the usual student life drink meeting women etc .post college Vivian struggled as a jobbing actor ,he had talents but was difficult at time ,with his acid wit and wry humour ,Eventually he made his way back to live in Nottingham ,had a great partner Kate who he was close too ,he always drank and loved pub culture being sat in a pub talking to people ,he worked on and off over the years for the designer Paul Smith a friend of his from his days in Nottingham ,eventually life caught up with Vivian and he spent time in hospital and had some fun at times whilst in hospital ,he lived a colourful and eventful life.

“It’s a present from Dodgy Dave ,the fucker who stole my television .He was working at Raleigh and I bet him he couldn’t nick me a bike .Well he did it in bits ”

I can’t imagine you ever riding a bike

but it’s not any old bike ,It’s a Raleigh chopper .A real seventies icon .He’s been nicking parts for weeks .The rest is in my back shed you don’t fancy putting it together do you ?

a friend notices Vivian television is missing but there are some handlebars in his front room.

I loved this book ,knew I would like most people of my generation the film Withnail and I is a real icon ,so this biography of the man who may have inspired the character was a must read for me .Now whether or not he did inspire Withnail doesn’t matter Vivian’s own story is a real touching story ,not one person who meet him seems to have a bad words in fact the opposite he seems to be a fondly remember guy who like a drink and had a huge if under used talent as an actor .i m sure in most big towns there are a number of Vivian’s the guy who tells wonderful stories in the pub as you sit and have a drink with him.A true testament to a true english eccentric ,he like the actors he admired Harris ,Burton was a large than life figure and truly deserved this touching portrait by Colin Bacon.


Todays BBAW task was to highlight two forgotten classics or modern books ,so being me went for a bit of both with a book from early 80’s and book from 90’s the first is –

The peculiar memories of Tomas Penman by Bruce Robinson -Now Bruce Robinson is best known for writing the script for the film withnail and I ,which was autobiographical ,well this book is like withnail as a child set in the 50’s in follows Thomas a young lad in a eccentric family as he comes of age told in Thomas voice crude ,funny ,revealing ,if you like withnail you’ll love this it has same sense of humour and characteristics as that film had .Not seen any reviews of it in my time blogging ,a lost gem from a clever writer and to date his only novel .

The last testament of Oscar Wilde by Peter Ackroyd  -Now my second book is by Peter Ackroyd  who is still writing but this is one of his earliest books from 1983 ,it is written in the style of Oscar Wilde and recounts the great writers dying days in paris after his time in Reading Gaol .It is a beautifully written piece Ackroyd manages to capture the great Oscar’s voice and we glimpse what were his last days through the man’s wit and irony a touching book

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April 2021


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