Reissues of Waugh’s novels a welcome 175th anniversary gift

03/24/2013 12:20 AM

08/08/2014 10:15 AM

To celebrate their 175th anniversary, Little Brown has issued hardcover editions of the novels of Evelyn Waugh. They’re all welcome, especially “Brideshead Revisited,” the original voyage into the mysteries of class and paternity that animates so much English fiction, right up to and including “Downton Abbey.” (Waugh referred to the genre as “the cult of the English country house.”)

Other Waugh novels in the series, which also includes paperbacks, are “The Loved One,” his satire on Hollywood death, and “A Handful of Dust.” Due any minute now are “Decline and Fall, “Black Mischief” and “Scoop,” my favorite of Waugh’s books and the only novel anybody needs to read about journalism, preferably before entering the profession or what’s left of it.

Waugh was viciously funny, but he also wrote particularly lovely prose in the English Brahmin manner, although he never allowed class loyalty to get in the way of character-based absurdity — he was always the perfect literary assassin.

Among other reissues, New Directions has brought out a new paperback containing two Tennessee Williams’ plays: “Orpheus Descending” and “Suddenly Last Summer.” Vanessa Redgrave starred in the former about 20 years ago, while “Suddenly Last Summer” is known primarily through the harrowing movie with Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift. There’s some ravishing writing in the latter that makes you wonder why it’s not produced more often.

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