Saturday, December 03, 2011


Whenever anybody asks, and often when they don’t, I declare that my favourite book is Vile Bodies, by Evelyn Waugh (1930). That said, I hadn’t actually read it since some time in the last millennium, and my battered orange-and-cream copy is currently hiding in a box somewhere in the south of England. So when I noticed it – an American edition from 1977 with a cover in that retro style that’s supposed to bring to mind the glamour of the inter-war years but really makes us think of the Gatsby movie with Redford and Farrow, and thus the 1970s – in a second-hand bookshop the other day, it just had to be mine.

I was dreading it not being as good a read as I’d remembered (although I might have explained that as a case of me being a better reader) but it’s held up remarkably well. Some of the scenes, such as Agatha’s appearance in the breakfast room of 10 Downing Street, remain laugh-out-loud funny, and plenty of Waugh’s sardonic little phrases still work their magic.

But one thing that I’d completely forgotten was Waugh’s own preface:
The action of the book is laid in the near future [which means that Cold Comfort Farm took even more tips from VB than I realised when Patroclus finally persuaded me to read it], when existing social tendencies have become more marked; I have postulated no mechanical or scientific advance, but in the interest of compactness and with no pretensions to prophecy, I have assumed a certain speeding up of legal procedure and daily journalism. In the latter case I have supposed a somewhat later hour for going to press and a greater expedition in distribution than is now generally the case.
Evelyn Waugh, it seems, invented Twitter.


Dave said...


Vicus Scurra said...

I have to confess to not having read it. Loved Scoop hated Brideshead. I will attempt to amend my oversight.

phil twitter i15minutes said...

Thanks for the blog and powerful suggestion to read the book. I've ordered it right away.

Anonymous said...

Like Vicus, I will try to mend my ways and read it.
Recently found a copy of the edition of Lucky Jim that I like. Now I'm happy. The others weren't quite right.

Tim F said...


Brideshead is by far his most sincere book, Vicus, and thus his worst. VB is far closer to Scoop, so I suspect you would enjoy it.

Good on you, Phil.

I know the feeling, BWT. Although you can rarely go wrong with an old-school Penguin.