Steve's Reviews > A Handful of Dust

A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh
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Jul 20, 10

Read in November, 1988



When I encountered Gore Vidal's statement that Evelyn Waugh was "our time's first satirist," I took him to mean our times best satirist. He could have intended nothing other.

Waugh's target in this novel is the English upper class, their attitudes, mores, shallowness, narrow self-centeredness, and on. . .and on. How can we characterize the nature of Waugh's satire? Blistering. Caustic. And utterly delightful.

The British upper class was not his only target, of course. In his other novels he lays it on the funeral industry, journalism, the clergy, public schools--a broad spectrum of human endeavor.

Evelyn Waugh is eminently quotable, but unfortunately, I do not have a copy of this novel at hand currently.

I hold that the first duty of a novelist is to entertain, and that Evelyn Waugh does roundly. The additional service he does us is to ridicule with brutal effectiveness the foibles of our species, a species that tragically overestimates itself, a so-called intelligent species incapable of grasping its true status on this planet let alone in this universe, a species that takes itself far, far too seriously.
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