Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh

Soooo, there are those books that I don't particularly love--that is, they don't grab me by the nosehairs and keep me involved. I can sit back objectively from these books and appreciate the writing or the form or their place within literature, but I don't love them. Such was the case for Vile Bodies...it was an "appreciate" type book.

Adam Symes is engaged to Nina Blount. He loses his money from the outset of the book, and he continues to gain and lose it several more times. Each time, he and Nina decide that if they have no money, they can't get married. And neither of them really seems to care too much. This flippant vapidness is pervasive throughout the book. Adam and Nina are surrounded by the "Bright Young Things" social set whose biggest concerns are drinking. And drinking and drinking. And parties. And drinking. Cheers!

This is a social satire of a novel, and I generally struggle with satire if it's longer than, say, about 100 pages. I rarely find myself able to cozy up to the characters, so that sense of separateness really keeps me from being fully invested.

That said, I did genuinely enjoy the tragic, dark conclusion here.  It's sad, but I guess I like my characters ok if they're drunk but love them if they're drunk and emotionally tortured. More of that!

Even though I didn't love this book, I do intend to watch the film adaptation by Stephen Fry. I think the silliness and offhanded ridiculousness of these characters will play much better on film.



Pub. Date: Original in 1930, this edition in 1977
Publisher: Back Bay Books
Format: Trade Paperback
ISBN: 9780316926119
Source: Bought it! 




11 comments:

  1. I haven't read the book yet, but I saw the movie. It was a flurry of drunkeness and parties tinged with sadness. Incredible cast!

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    1. The movie looks so cool and awesome. Hoping it will elevate my feelings about the book. Definitely an incredible cast.

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  2. (sighs - so when I comment on my phone or ipad, it doesn't register on your site...)
    Anyways, what I wanted to say was that I had the exact same experience with Brideshead Revisited which I've just finished. I liked it and appreciated it - but there was no love (or only tiny bits of love a few times).

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    1. Ack!!! I'm sorry! I've used my phone for commenting before and it was fine, but that was before they tweaked the commenting feature a few weeks ago.

      Good to know about Brideshead. I'm sure I'll still read it since it's on my Classics Club list, but I may not be in such a big hurry to get to it.

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  3. Okay, I was completely wrong. This is not the Waugh I read! The one I read is called The Loved One! Summary:

    Following the death of a friend, the poet and pets' mortician Dennis Barlow finds himself entering the artificial Hollywood paradise of the Whispering Glades Memorial Park. Within its golden gates, death, American-style, is wrapped up and sold like a package holiday-and Dennis gets drawn into a bizarre love triangle with Aimée Thanatogenos, a naïve Californian corpse beautician, and Mr. Joyboy, a master of the embalmer's art. Waugh's dark and savage satire on the Anglo-American cultural divide depicts a world where reputation, love, and death cost a very great deal.

    I found it to be very funny, so I'm not sure why I haven't read more Waugh. Won't be rushing to read this one!

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    1. THAT sounds amazing! And morbid! And kitschy! I may swap out Brideshead on my Classics Club list for The Loved One. lol

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  4. I saw the movie, but years ago -- I remember feeling sort of this same way about it. I appreciated but didn't love it (& I was sad because I love Stephen Fry and want to love all his works).

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  5. I absolutely loved the only Waugh book I ever read but for some reason never picked up another one. Satire in a book is something that works/doesn't work for me depending on the book so I may still give this one a try.

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  6. I didn't know the book or the movie, but I think I prefer the movie in this case beacuse social criticism is not my thing!

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  7. I sooooo agree with your point about struggling with longer satire. It can start to feel schticky if it goes on too long and there's no other substance in the book. Stephen Fry is doing the adaption of this one?! I love him!

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  8. At the risk of sounding shallow... I would totally buy this book just for the cover. :-)

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