27 September 2012

75. Evelyn Waugh, SCOOP

There's something about expecting to laugh, and not finding anything funny to laugh at, that can make a person believe nothing will ever be funny ever again. The flavor of despair permeates the whole thing. I was so primed with SCOOP to love it, and maybe later on reflection I'll be able to appreciate what it was going for -- but not now.

Satirizing the excesses of the press? I love it. A case of mistaken identity gone global, as rural columnist William Boot is sent to a troubled African country instead of novelist John Boot? On board. International incidents that may not even have been taking place, distorted by reports on the ground? You bet! But this novel felt interminable, because these gags were so visible from a thousand miles away, that they just weren't funny -- and they went over the same points over and over again, without making them more pointed or entertaining.

Yet I hate to even write that because it feels like a personal failing. Hey, I have a sense of humor! I really do! I read DECLINE AND FALL, and I remember liking that (though it was for a class, and I may be confusing its rags-to-riches-to-rags plot with that of "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels"). I know the difference between satire and comedy. And I would never presume from a British author the same style of humor as, say, in Fox's Tuesday night comedy lineup. (Though if William Boot had crashed a wedding and run out with a bottle of champagne, I might have laughed a little more. Not prescribing. Just saying.) But I didn't find it entertaining at all, I slogged, and that was that.

Naturally, I was prepared to bid He-velyn* goodbye forever until I looked at the Modern Library list and realized I still have one more to get through (A HANDFUL OF DUST).

Ellen vs. ML: 58 read, 42 unread

Next up: Maybe THE GRAPES OF WRATH. 

*Have you heard this one? Evelyn Waugh (m.) married a woman who was also named Evelyn, and apocryphally their friends referred to them as He-velyn and She-velyn. Hyphens are mine there. 


Anonymous said...

I loved Grapes of Wrath. I read it 3 years ago. ~Jen

Wade Garrett said...

I just picked up a copy of The Grapes of Wrath at a library sale the other day. If you'd like a partner with whom to read it, let me know.

Ellen said...

Jen, that is a welcome thing to hear in my apparent tour of disparaging great American literature.

Wade, you're on - but I probably won't get around to it for at least a month. Is that cool?

Wade said...

It's definitely cool -- I am in the middle of a stack of library books I would like to finish, so that timing works out really well.