Monday, December 22, 2014

How To Tell If You Are In An Evelyn Waugh Novel

(With further apologies to The Toast, whose series started it all.)

Waugh is not amused.
Your name is Pennyfeather.
You appear to be floating through life. Hilarious misfortune befalls you and those around you.
A small boy is accidentally shot in the foot by the starting gun at a race. He dies.
You befriend a man with a wooden leg who is not who he says he is.
Your beloved (who is much older and wealthier than you) has gotten you mixed up in the South American flesh trade. You are sent to prison, which is quite an agreeable experience. Your time in solitude there has you feeling the the best you've felt in years.

Your name is Seal.
While visiting Africa to advise an Oxford-educated ruler, you end up running his country, falling madly in love, intriguing, having a court official's throat cut, and going to a cannibal banquet. Also, your pillow talk to your girlfriend about "wanting to eat her up" later turns out to be a poor choice of words.

Your name is Flyte.
You are attached to a decaying estate and its income decreases inversely to your age.
Your closest companion for your early university years is a stuffed bear named Alphonse.
Your buoyant charm is gradually being displaced by your alcoholism and an increasing sense of existential dread.

Your name is Ryder.
You aspire to be an artist. Your father's scorn for you is never spoken outright and taken out on you in creative ways. Once, he insisted on referring to your childhood friend as if he were a barbarous American while he sits next to you at the table. (This is a delight to the readers of the story but not to you. To your friend, it is mostly puzzling.)
Someone you know in the army is named Hooper and is forcibly given a haircut.
You go off to war. It is dull.

Your name is Crouchback.
You are a devout Catholic aristocrat in England. This is odd because no one practices the state religion of Anglicanism any more.
To escape encroaching ennui, you've enlisted as war breaks out. The British Army's antiquated methods of training and your stiff upper lip won't win this war, but it will make for a hell of a story.
Someone you know in the Army is named Trimmer and is a skilled women's hairdresser.
All of your commanding officers insist on being addressed by nicknames that might have been endearing if referring to the family dog. Here, it is merely ridiculous.

Your name is Lovejoy.
Institutionalized for a murder committed many moons ago, you are now a gentle, aged soul. There is only one thing you would desire of anything in the world before you can die happy (guess what it is!). Thanks to the starry-eyed humanitarian daughter of one of your fellow patients at the home, you get your wish (yep, it was murder).

Your name is Plastic.
In a dystopian future, you delight in setting fire to things and serve time for arson in a welfare paradise for criminals. You court a woman with a bearded jaw and are declared the prison's only successfully rehabilitated inmate. You have other plans (that involve a lighter)...

In short, the clearest sign you're in an Evelyn Waugh story is that ______ [Death, Murder, Cannibalism, Arson, Suicide, War, Penury] is always amusing.

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