Monday, July 28, 2008

Alexander Waugh

Alexander Waugh's books include Classical Music, A New Way of Listening (1995), Time (1999), God (2002), Fathers and Sons (2004), and the forthcoming The House of Wittgenstein: A Family at War.

Recently, I asked him what he was reading. His reply:
This morning I finished a new novel called Pollard by Laura Beatty. It is about a thick-set fifteen-year-old English girl who goes out into the woods and spends a night there. In fact she spends the rest of her life there, building a shelter and learning to eat and clean and do her ablutions in the woods. It is a rich poetic work, highly original, utterly engrossing. What Americans perhaps call an "experience read." It had me hooked.

I am also half way through Boswell's Life of Johnson which I never read as a youth. There's a wonderful letter in it that Johnson wrote to a women seeking his assistance in getting her son a place to study at Winchester. She wants him to write to an archbishop whom he does not know, on behalf of her son whom he has yet to meet. Johnson writes to let her down: "Hope is itself a species of happiness and perhaps the chief happiness which this world affords; but like all other pleasures immoderately enjoyed, the excesses of hope must be expatiated by pain; and expectations improperly indulged, must end in disappointment." I am not sure how much I like Johnson though I see he is admirably quick and intelligent. The most interesting aspect of this book is the fluctuating relationship between the subject and his obsessive, sometimes drooling, sometimes catty biographer.

Tomorrow I start a book called Ararat by a Dutchman, Frank Westerman, which I am reviewing for the Spectator. No opinions on it yet. The back cover says it is "a dazzling, highly personal book about science, religion and all that lies between, by one of Europe's most celebrated young writers of non-fiction." First page looks a little pretentious but I have high hopes for the rest of it.
Michiko Kakutani of the New York Times on Waugh's Fathers and Sons:
“[Alexander Waugh] has created a vivid, Dickensian portrait of his eccentric relatives and he’s done so with enormous irreverence and √©lan.”
Alexander Waugh is the grandson of Evelyn Waugh and the son of columnist Auberon Waugh and novelist Teresa Waugh. He has been the opera critic at the Mail on Sunday and the Evening Standard.

Related: Alexander Waugh: books on father-son relationships.

Visit Alexander Waugh's website.

--Marshal Zeringue