Guardian Newspaper 1000 Novels discussion

Scoop
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Monthly Book Reads > Scoop - May 2018

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Darren (dazburns) | 757 comments Mod
Welcome to the discussion thread for the group's May 2018 selection in the Comedy category:
Evelyn Waugh's Scoop
Scoop by Evelyn Waugh

Who's reading this one?

I read this a couple of years ago, so hopefully can remember enough to join in as we go along...


Christopher (Donut) | 245 comments This was my nom. I'm glad it won.

I was recently reading an introduction to the novel by Christopher Hitchens in Love, Poverty, and War: Journeys and Essays, and may print some excerpts from that piece.

Hitchens says the satire of British reporters jibes rather well with his own stint on The New Statesman.. (I think it was the New Statesman), and the lore he picked up there.


Leslie | 825 comments I might reread this as I very much enjoyed it the first time. But even if I don't, I look forward to following the discussion.


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Fay Roberts | 363 comments I’m in but it may be a bit later in the month :-)


Dennis Fischman (dfischman) | 162 comments Fay wrote: "I’m in but it may be a bit later in the month :-)"

I'm in the same boat, Fay, but at least it's on my shelf!


Renee How many of you actually found it funny? It's on the comedy list, and granted, I'm only about 44% in, but I haven't found even one instance so far that made me chuckle.


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Fay Roberts | 363 comments @rene I’m still waiting for my copy to arrive :-(


Dennis Fischman (dfischman) | 162 comments Renee wrote: "How many of you actually found it funny? It's on the comedy list, and granted, I'm only about 44% in, but I haven't found even one instance so far that made me chuckle."

I think it's a satire, more than a comedy. It makes me groan, something like a bad pun does--and something like a catastrophe does when I could see it coming and couldn't prevent it.


Christopher (Donut) | 245 comments At this point, I will quote something I HAVE read recently (I have not read Scoop recently). From Love, Poverty, and War: Journeys and Essays:

The first chapter of Book Two is probably the finest evocation of Absurdistan ever composed. One yearns to quote or excerpt the whole of it, from which I select the fate of those missionaries who ventured into Ishmaelia:

They were eaten, every one of them: some raw, others stewed and seasoned—according to local usage and the calendar (for the better sort of Ishmaelites have been Christian for many centuries and will not publicly eat human flesh, uncooked, in Lent, without special and costly dispensation from their bishop.)
[...]

... But here we touch on a sensitive ganglion. Is Mr. Waugh, by employing the “stereotype” of the cannibal stewpot, not reaching for the baser instincts of his readers? Do his characters not also use words like “darky” and “coon” and even “n****r” without evident compunction? Well, there’s no real point in trying to acquit Mr. Waugh in front of the sort of modern jury he would have despised or ignored. But he himself employs no term of hatred or contempt; his main fools and dolts are English or Swedish or German, and his villain—the memorably-sketched Dr. Benito—is a suave and elegant and fluent black man. The most subhuman portrayals are of British youths back in southern England (a theme to which I want to return).

[end Hitchens excerpt]

(which is probably worse than exculpatory for some would-be readers, I know)


Christopher (Donut) | 245 comments One more excerpt from Love, Poverty, and War: Journeys and Essays:

The manners and mores of the press, however, are the recurrent motif of the book and the chief reason for its enduring magic:
William and Corker went to the Press Bureau. Dr. Benito, the director, was away but his clerk entered their names in his ledger and gave them cards of identity. They were small orange documents, originally printed for the registration of prostitutes.
Later: “Once and for all, Salter, I will not have a barrier erected between me and my staff. I am as accessible to the humblest . . .” Lord Copper paused for an emphatic example . . . “the humblest book reviewer as I am to my immediate entourage.”


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Fay Roberts | 363 comments Renee wrote: "How many of you actually found it funny? It's on the comedy list, and granted, I'm only about 44% in, but I haven't found even one instance so far that made me chuckle."

It is very wry and dry. A very "British" humour I personally think. I smirked a lot but then I'm British and that's what we do.....we aren't particularly prone to the guffaw ;-)
It was more comedic really than comedy; quite farcical. When I first started I remember thinking "ahhhhh it's Pratchett with a plot...."
Did you finish? What was your overall impression?


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Fay Roberts | 363 comments Christopher wrote: "At this point, I will quote something I HAVE read recently (I have not read Scoop recently). From Love, Poverty, and War: Journeys and Essays:

The first chapter of Book Two is probab..."


Hitchens wrote the introduction to my copy :-)


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Fay Roberts | 363 comments So I finished and it is what it is; wryly amusing, very clever, fast paced and entertaining. I was glad it was short though because I don't think it would have held my attention for much longer.
I really appreciated the novel as skilfully put together and frightfully clever in the the intricacies of the plot so I hope I aren't causing controversy when I say for me it was a "throwaway" novel. I can't remember half the characters names now and I won't be able to discuss it within a week.
What did you all think? It is anyone's favourite book of all time? Is this someone's favourite genre and they love this kind of humour and farce? If so what others do they like?
Also, I won't read it again so if anyone wants a paperback copy I am happy to post anywhere in the world if you want to pm me your address.


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Fay wrote: "So I finished and it is what it is; wryly amusing, very clever, fast paced and entertaining. I was glad it was short though because I don't think it would have held my attention for much longer.
I..."


Agree with you, Faye. It was 'throwaway' & I'm very glad it was short too.

I really did not like this book whatsoever. I finished it this morning & the first word that came into my head as I closed it was, 'vile'. I could not bear the racism & sexism. I can appreciate a good farce but this was not entertaining. Understandably a good satire of the profession & of that certain class but it's given me a distaste for Waugh. It's the first novel of his I've read & I've no intention of reading anything else by him.

Anyone agree or think this is too harsh?


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Fay Roberts | 363 comments @Catriona - it’s so weird but when I’m actually reading a book I never notice things like that. It’s only afterwards when someone else points it out to me. I know it’s there but when I’m actually reading I’m immersed in the characters and the plot and the time of that particular story so if it seems as though it’s fitting to those things it doesn’t stand out to me. However, since I read your comment yesterday I’ve been reading Diana Gabaldon’s Voyager and am actually shocked by the racism in the last few chapters of the book........


Darren (dazburns) | 757 comments Mod
I've read many books written before WW2 (and some later!) that have casual sexist/non-PC attitudes from characters/authors - I tend to just see that as part of the historical context and it doesn't really bother me


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Darren wrote: "I've read many books written before WW2 (and some later!) that have casual sexist/non-PC attitudes from characters/authors - I tend to just see that as part of the historical context and it doesn't..."

Fay wrote: "@Catriona - it’s so weird but when I’m actually reading a book I never notice things like that. It’s only afterwards when someone else points it out to me. I know it’s there but when I’m actually r..."

I understand what you mean, Darren & Faye, usually I do the same - read it as historical context. But this book made me really uncomfortable - maybe it was knowing that Waugh had facist sympathies.


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Phil (lanark) | 467 comments Catching up here. I'm about 40% through and I'm agreeing with Orwell that this is a good writing can be while holding untenable views. I read Auboron Waugh's autobiography once, and his father did come across as an utterly vile human being.

However, having said that, unlike the rest of you, I'm finding myself laughing out loud at points reading this. I even had to read the section where he gets fleeced at the supply store out loud to my wife (a Christmas hamper with Santa Claus costume and folding mistletoe tripod).


Leslie | 825 comments While I can see how this book can be seen as offensive to some, I found it hilarious. I am glad to hear from someone else who does, Phil!

I don't know anything about Waugh's personal life or views (and don't want to!) but I do believe that satire such as this can be a more effective tool for pointing out imperialist or racist views to the public than more 'serious' or 'politically correct' writing. The prejudices of characters shouldn't be automatically attribruted to the author.


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