Evelyn Waugh, Ann Pasternak Slater

It's only chemo

More literary criticism ought to be like this. Ann Pasternak Slater understands the genre Waugh writes in and judges his work according to what it was trying to achieve. She pays meticulous attention to the structuring and patterning of his novels, demonstrating how his themes and arguments are built up through the careful choice of words and motifs. The section on Gilbert Pinfold is especially entertaining. Did you know Waugh mixed his chloral and phenobarbital with creme de menthe to make it taste better? There’s also a brilliant footnote about tricolon diminuens where Slater quotes Waugh being dismissive of Churchill’s ‘sham-Augustan prose’.

The best analysis is of Brideshead, where Slater makes a compelling defence of the famous scene when Charles ‘takes possession’ of Julia’s loins. The word possession is frequently repeated in the book, and an attentive reading shows that Waugh is as unimpressed with Charles’ chauvinism as we…

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By penwithlit

Freelance writer and radio presenter

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