Sunday, March 13, 2011

The perfect English gentleman goes to war

Well, not to fight of course, but to serve as a war correspondent for an English daily called The Beast. And so we have the premise of Evelyn Waugh's very funny novel entitled Scoop.

Scoop starts off as a comedy of errors actually. A famous young novelist named John Courteney Boot solicits the help of a British socialite to become a war correspondent in Ishmaelia, an obscure African country. The socialite talks to the head of the newspaper who then mistakenly assigns the correspondent position to one William Boot.

If you know William Boot, you'd know that he's the last person that should get the post. He's much too reserved and naive. And the only journalistic experience that he has is that he writes a column for The Beast entitled Lush Places, where he talks about rodents, badgers, birds, and what-have-yous in the British countryside. Boot and war seem a combination for disaster. Add to the fact that no one seems to know what the war in Ishmaelia is about, if indeed there is a war.

Scoop is Waugh at one of his comic best. Instead of the novel heading to become a predictable screwball comedy, Waugh takes it even further. He presents the quirks of journalists when they're in a foreign territory, doing everything to outdo each other for that elusive headline story. Even the romance between William Boot and a German lady is hilarious, with the lady taking full advantage of the love-stricken Boot, who finds love in the most unusual places.

Waugh is one of my all-time favorite novelists. The way he writes dialogue demonstrates he's a deft writer. Scoop is pure comic genius. What else can you expect from a writer who married a woman also named Evelyn. One should have a twisted sense of humor to do so.

Read this book if:
  1. You'll read anything by Waugh.
  2. You want a good laugh.
  3. You like characters named Corker, Shumble, Whelper, and Pigge.


C.B. James said...

I've never read Scoop but I'm a fan of both Brideshead Revisited and The Loved One. I should give this one a read soon.

Peter S. said...

The Loved One is my favorite Waugh book, C.B. James!

Stepford Mum said...

I've been wanting to read Waugh! I will be borrowing Brideshead Revisited soon :)

Peter S. said...

Hi, Stepford Mum! You'll love Waugh!