By Evelyn Waugh
Published by Everyman’s Library
Copyright: © 1993
Arthur Evelyn St. John Waugh was selected by Time magazine, in 2016, as 97th most read female writer on college campuses. Number 1 is a non-fiction manual on writing, well, non-fiction. So much for layers and layers of fact checkers and editors not to mention the gross ineptitude of today’s journalists. Waugh’s fifth novel ‘Scoop‘, a farcical and possibly autobiographical look at newsrooms and their paid occupants, should be required reading for our exalted modern journalists if for no other reason than to familiarize themselves with one of the 20th century’s best writers–and humor. The less than flattering reviews by journalists of the book ‘Scoop’ suggests that as a profession, journalists are incapable of recognizing or appreciating sarcasm and irony, much in a similar vein of reasoning that has reporters fact checking the Babylon Bee or the Onion.
Leaving the critique of Time magazine’s prowess to others, Evelyn Waugh authored 13 novels or 10 novels and 1 trilogy from 1928 through 1961 plus numerous short stories, letters, travel logs, essays, articles, reviews, diaries and an autobiography. By the numbers a productive life of writing, which after publication of the novel ‘Brideshead Revisited‘ also made him a wealthy man.
Waugh’s ‘Decline and Fall’ is also a partially autobiographical farce chasing early 20th century English society down the rabbit hole with relish and ridicule. For some reason Waugh had to tell his readers that the book was meant to be funny, and it is, very. Maybe journalists are not the only ones having difficulty with recognizing humor.
Paul Pennyfeather, ‘Decline and Fall’s’ luckless, not really a hero, protagonist, plays it straight for a large cast of stooges, miscreants, and demented characters bent on bringing him down to their level, whether deliberately is not necessarily pertinent to this story. Philbrick, a butler, living more biographies in his head than a school library. Mr. Grimes, a peg-legged opportunist taking the profession of teaching to lengths not attainable by those who went before him. Pendergast, synonymous with a bad toupee, finds his doubts about scripture inimical with his chosen profession as man of the cloth. Pennyfeather joins them all, without censure, in their world much below where he would rather be.