Thursday, March 09, 2006

Catching Up

The stack of periodicals is haunted. No matter how much I read it never gets any shorter. Today's recommendation from the back issues: there is a wonderful article in the 26 September 2005 number of The American Conservative on Evelyn Waugh the polemicist. Sample of Waugh's slicing and dicing:

In 1935, Waugh had drubbed a bungling biographer of the pre-Raphaelites, who through her sheer incompetence -- her many solecisms included confusing Giovanni Bellini the painter with Vincenzo Bellini the composer -- goaded Waugh to the following conclusion:

"All these faults occur in the first eight and a half pages . . . On the wrapper of the book it is prominently announced that Miss Winwar has been awarded a £1,000 prize, and that this shocking work was selected from over 800 manuscripts. It is not revealed by whom the prize was offered or who made the selection. Perhaps the name was drawn out of a hat. But if, as it is reasonable to assume, this book was chosen for its superior merit, the mind reels at the thought of the unsuccessful 800."

Waugh in a better frame of mind on New Orleans on Ash Wednesday:

"There is witchcraft in New Orleans, as there was a the court of Mme. de Montespan. Yet it was there that I saw one of the most moving sights of my tour. Ash Wednesday; warm rain falling in the streets unsightly with the draggled survivals of carnival. The Roosevelt Hotel overflowing with crapulous tourists planning their return journeys. How many of them knew anything about Lent? But across the way the Jesuit Church was teeming with life all day long; a continuous, dense crowd of all colors and conditions moving up to the altar rails and returning with their foreheads signed with ash. And the old grim message was being repeated over each penitent: 'Dust thou art and unto dust thou shalt return.' One grows parched for that straight style of speech in the desert of modern euphemisms. . . ."

Alas, it isn't on line. But you can order a back issue or even try the library.