Lonely White Men: On Michel Houellebecq’s “Serotonin”
By Louis Betty
FRANCE’S MICHEL HOUELLEBECQ leads something of a double career. A novelist of Prix Goncourt–winning distinction, Houellebecq is also his country’s best-selling author abroad and, on many accounts, currently its best. He is also reliably a prophet of current events: his third novel, Platform, featured an Islamist attack on a Thai sex resort and was published just days before 9/11; a later novel, Submission, which imagined France’s election of a Muslim party president, appeared the day of the Charlie Hebdo attacks and seemed a novelistic auger of the gruesome wave of terrorism that roiled France during the next few years. Whatever, Houellebecq’s 1994 debut novel, turned out to be equally prescient, though it took more than two decades for its prophecies to take shape. A commentary on male sexual frustration, Whatever, as the author of a New York Times essay argued in 2018, is a psychological account of involuntary celibacy and the violence that erotic isolation breeds.
Two more essays from Duncan McLaren’s Evelyn Waugh website. The information about Waugh’s and Graham’s relationship I have not read anywhere summarised in this way. As fascinating as ever. What a sad end for Alastair Graham.
The relationship between Evelyn Waugh and Alastair Graham in Evelyn concluded or ask Alastair
Evelyn Waugh and Alastair set out on trip to north of England and into Scotland Evelyn and Alastair’s Grand Tour
More than six months ago I received a link to Duncan McLaren’s latest (what shall I call it?) meandering musings on Evelyn Waugh. At the time I was bogged down with writing TONY ABBOTT AND THE TIMES OF REVOLUTION and did not have the mental space to read and post the link. I have now got around it.
Duncan’s writings are for the extreme Waugh lover. Prepare for a wild ride. He had received a letter from someone who mentioned a meeting between Waugh and George Orwell. Duncan’s imagination took flight. Enjoy.
WHEN WAUGH MET ORWELL or “DOUBLEPLUSGOOD, JEEVES”
While I agree in principle that fiction writers should avoid the passive voice and choose a strong verb in instead of resorting to adverbs, the passive voice and adverbs are functional part of the English language, and I use them when required by the shade of the narrative. I take my example from Evelyn Waugh who, it was said, never wrote a bad sentence. Take this sentence in Decline and Fall (chapter 9 about sports day). There were accusations of cheating:
No one spoke of the race, but outraged sportsmanship glinted perilously in every eye.
Would Waugh’s meaning be the same – have the same force – if one removed ‘perilously’ ? Or what verb could replace the already descriptive ‘glinted’ and convey the same meaning?
The character of Madame DeFarge in Charles Dickens’s A TALE OF TWO CITIES is the (UK) Telegraph‘s Daisy Bowie-Sell’s favourite Dickens character.
‘Madame Defarge, from A Tale Of Two Cities,’ Bowie-Sell writes, ‘is a one of Charles Dickens’s meanest characters and is the fifth in the Telegraph pick of the best Charles Dickens characters.’
Ideologues Captured the Canadian Publishing Industry
In 2016, when I enrolled in the Master of Publishing program at Simon Fraser University’s Vancouver, B.C. campus, I had expected to find an industry of like-minded professionals who shared my love of the written word. And I did indeed meet many such colleagues. But I also got a glimpse into an industry that has become politicized to an extent that I scarcely could have imagined.
Publishing is not a career one chooses for the money. Nearly all areas of the industry are suffering economically. But since embarking on this course of study, I’ve found myself confronting challenges that have nothing to do with money. Regular Quillette readers will be aware that political and ideological forces have constrained the range of acceptable content in artistically and academically rarified fields such as creative writing (including poetry), media studies, music and performance art. What might be less appreciated is the manner by which these same forces are exerting pressure on the more mainstream area of publishing…
Arthur Evelyn St. John Waugh was born in 1903 to upper-middle-class Anglicans who lived in a suburb of London. He attended a boarding secondary school (Lancing College), read history at Oxford, published his first book (a biography of the painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti) at age twenty-four, then his first novel a year later. Waugh married that same year (1928), divorced after two years, and converted to Catholicism. After the first marriage was declared null, he married a Catholic by whom he had seven children. He served honorably but ineffectively as an infantry officer in World War II, and was to publish thirteen novels, as well as seven travel books, three biographies, a volume of autobiography, and numerous essays and book reviews. Lionized in the 1920s as a trendy man of fashion, he became increasingly conservative in politics and churchmanship and notorious for his truculent contempt for the sham enthusiasms of modernity. He died on Easter Sunday, 1966, at his house in Somerset. Read on…
Enid Blyton, the popular children’s writer, died 50 years ago this week.
Astonishingly prolific, the author composed some 700 books between 1922, when she published her poetry collection Child Whispers, and her death in Hampstead on 28 November 1968, often rattling out 6,000 words a day at the typewriter.
She has sold more than 600 million books, which have never gone out of print, been translated into 90 languages and enjoyed a loyal following among young readers for generations, her characters from the Famous Five to Noddy capturing the imagination and inspiring a taste for adventure.
But Blyton has also been heavily criticised. The BBC refused to dramatise her output during her lifetime on the grounds she was a “second-rater”, while she has been derided for the patriarchal assumptions, snobbery and xenophobia evident in her novels and mocked as a conservative relic of a Britain that no longer exists. Read on…
by Rob Weinert-Kendt
I am not quite sure how it happened, but by the age of 13 I was a blissfully indiscriminate Anglophile—a devotee of Jane Austen, “Doctor Who,” Monty Python and the Beatles. The summer of my first teen year, I didn’t just wake up in the wee hours to watch the televised wedding of Prince Charles and Diana Spencer; I dutifully recorded the audio of some of it on a small tape deck for easy replay. When “Chariots of Fire” surprisingly won the Oscar for Best Picture in 1982, it felt like a personal triumph.
It was in that impressionable state that “Brideshead Revisited” entered, and changed, my life. The 11-part television adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s great novel aired weekly on PBS, the main supplier of my Brit fixes, and I sat gape-jawed at it, drinking it all in, even as its narrative took turns I didn’t understand at the time (some of which I still wrestle with, in different ways). The book soon became a beloved talisman as well. And while my initial attraction was the usual aesthetic one—the accents, the clothes, the vintage motorcars—the novel’s deeper strands wove themselves indelibly into my own story.
Continue reading ‘Brideshead Revisited changed my life’