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Modern Classics Scoop
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on May 10, 2002
A truly funny satire of the newspaper business. Waugh's wit, unlike other so called British humorists, is funny even to a colonial like me.
Through a wonderfully hilarious mistaken identity, William Boot is sent to Africa by the daily newspaper The Beast on rumors that the country of Ishmalea is on the verge of revolution. Waugh's portrayal of Lord Copper, the newspaper magnate, Lady Stitch, and Slater,the newspaper's foreign editor, is very funny.
Boot is the newspaper's reporter of farm news and is flabergasted at Cooper and Slater's insistence that he go to Ishmalea to cover the revolution. He reluctantly agrees to go only because of the opportunity it presents to fly in an airplane.
Upon arriving in Ishmalea, Boot is united with foreign correspondents of other European and American newspapers. He quickly discovers that there really is no news to report and that for the most part the other reporters are making thier own news. Most of the stories are genrated by the infamous Lord Hitchcock who rarely leaves his hotel room.
While in Ishmalea, Boot meets a mysterious German girl, who he falls madly in love with. Boot reports on a mini-revolution that lasts about a day. For his good work, Boot is recalled home to a hero's welcome by The Beast.
Boot desires to return to his agrarian lifestyle much to the dismay of Lord Cooper who sends Slater to the country to persuade Boot to stay on at the Beast and to attend a banquet in his honor. Slater's visit to the Boot homestead is truly hillarious.
In a wonderful irony John Boot, the novelist that Lord Cooper intended to send to Ishmalea, is knighted for his work at the bequest of Lord Cooper and then sent to Antartica as a foreign correspondent.
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on April 16, 2002
In October 1935, Italy invaded the independent African nation of Ethiopia. The Italo-Ethiopian War lasted less than eight months, Emperor Haile Selassie's kingdom falling quickly before Italy's modern weaponry. It was a little war that, nonetheless, implicated the great powers of Europe and foreshadowed the much bigger war to follow.
Evelyn Waugh was in his early 30s, already the author of four remarkable comic novels, when he accepted an assignment to cover the Italo-Ethiopian War for a London newspaper. The enduring result of that assignment was Waugh's fifth novel, "Scoop," a scathing satirical assault on the ethos of Fleet Street and its war correspondents, as well as on Waugh's usual suspects, the British upper classes.
The time is the 1930s. There is a civil war in the obscure country of Ishmaelia and Lord Copper, the publisher of the Beast newspaper, a newspaper that "stands for strong, mutually antagonistic governments everywhere," believes coverage of the war is imperative:
"I am in consultation with my editors on the subject. We think it a very promising little war. A microcosm you might say of world drama. We propose to give it fullest publicity. We shall have our naval, military and air experts, our squad of photographers, our colour reporters, covering the war from every angle and on every front."
Through the influence of Mrs. Algernon Stitch, Lord Copper soon identifies John Courteney Booth, a best selling popular author, as the right man to cover the war in Ishmaelia. Neither Lord Copper nor his inscrutable editorial staff, however, is especially well read or familiar with the current socially respectable literati. Amidst the confusion, Mr. Salter, the foreign editor, mistakenly identifies William Booth, country bumpkin and staff writer for the Beast, as the "Booth" to whom Lord Copper was referring:
"At the back of the paper, ignominiously sandwiched between Pip and Pop, the Bedtime Pets, and the recipe for a dish named 'Waffle Scramble,' lay the bi-weekly column devoted to nature: --
Lush Places. Edited by William Boot, Countryman.
" 'Do you suppose that's the right one?' "
" 'Sure of it. The Prime Minister is nuts on rural England.' "
" 'He's supposed to have a particularly high-class style: 'Feather-footed through the plashy fen passes the questing vole' . . . would that be it?' "
" 'Yes,' said the Managing Editor. That must be good style. At least it doesn't sound like anything else to me.' "
Thus, William Boot, Countryman, soon finds himself on his way to Ishmaelia to cover the civil war for the Beast. Boot hooks up with an experienced wire reporter named Corker along the way. Corker teachers Boot the ins and outs of covering the war, a war in which reportage comes from little more than the imagination of the journalists sent to cover it and the editorial policies of their papers. The real nature of the war correspondent's profession is suggested when Boot and Corker go to the Ishmaelia Press Bureau to obtain their credentials: "Dr. Benito, the director, was away but his clerk entered their names in his ledger and gave them cards of identity. They were small orange documents, originally printed for the registration of prostitutes. The space for thumb-print was now filled with a passport photograph and at the head the word 'journalist' substituted in neat Ishmaelite characters."
Boot, despite his naivety and ignorance of the war correspondent's trade, inadvertently succeeds in trumping his more experienced journalistic competitors in reporting the war. Along the way, his adventures in Ishmaelia provide the perfect Waugh vehicle for a satiric dissection of the journalistic trade and of what passes as governance in the less developed parts of the world, where tribalism and nepotism more often than not underlie the veneer of ostensibly functioning political systems.
Boot, of course, returns to England, where he is now a household name. But one Boot is just as good as another, or so it seems. In the confusion of Boots, William, the real war correspondent, thankfully returns to his country home while his doddering, half-senile Uncle Theodore fulfills his role as the center of attention at the Beast and the prominent author John Courteney Booth (the man who started all this) mistakenly ends up with a knighthood intended for William.
"Scoop" is another brilliant Waugh comic send-up based on real-life experience, in this case his experience as a war correspondent in Ethiopia. It also is one of his best works, a little comic novel that will keep you in stitches from beginning to end.
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on November 25, 2001
In October 1935, Italy invaded the independent African nation of Ethiopia. The Italo-Ethiopian War lasted less than eight months, Emperor Haile Selassie's kingdom falling quickly before Italy's modern weaponry. It was a little war that, nonetheless, implicated the great powers of Europe and foreshadowed the much bigger war to follow.
Evelyn Waugh was in his early 30s, already the author of four remarkable comic novels, when he accepted an assignment to cover the Italo-Ethiopian War for a London newspaper. The enduring result of that assignment was Waugh's fifth novel, "Scoop," a scathing satirical assault on the ethos of Fleet Street and its war correspondents, as well as on Waugh's usual suspects, the British upper classes.
The time is the 1930s. There is a civil war in the obscure country of Ishmaelia and Lord Copper, the publisher of the Beast newspaper, a newspaper that "stands for strong, mutually antagonistic governments everywhere," believes coverage of the war is imperative:
"I am in consultation with my editors on the subject. We think it a very promising little war. A microcosm you might say of world drama. We propose to give it fullest publicity. We shall have our naval, military and air experts, our squad of photographers, our colour reporters, covering the war from every angle and on every front."
Through the influence of Mrs. Algernon Stitch, Lord Copper soon identifies John Courteney Booth, a best selling popular author, as the right man to cover the war in Ishmaelia. Neither Lord Copper nor his inscrutable editorial staff, however, is especially well read or familiar with the current socially respectable literati. Amidst the confusion, Mr. Salter, the foreign editor, mistakenly identifies William Booth, country bumpkin and staff writer for the Beast, as the "Booth" to whom Lord Copper was referring:
"At the back of the paper, ignominiously sandwiched between Pip and Pop, the Bedtime Pets, and the recipe for a dish named 'Waffle Scramble,' lay the bi-weekly column devoted to nature: --
Lush Places. Edited by William Boot, Countryman.
" 'Do you suppose that's the right one?' "
" 'Sure of it. The Prime Minister is nuts on rural England.' "
" 'He's supposed to have a particularly high-class style: 'Feather-footed through the plashy fen passes the questing vole' . . . would that be it?' "
" 'Yes,' said the Managing Editor. That must be good style. At least it doesn't sound like anything else to me.' "
Thus, William Boot, Countryman, soon finds himself on his way to Ishmaelia to cover the civil war for the Beast. Boot hooks up with an experienced wire reporter named Corker along the way. Corker teachers Boot the ins and outs of covering the war, a war in which reportage comes from little more than the imagination of the journalists sent to cover it and the editorial policies of their papers. The real nature of the war correspondent's profession is suggested when Boot and Corker go to the Ishmaelia Press Bureau to obtain their credentials: "Dr. Benito, the director, was away but his clerk entered their names in his ledger and gave them cards of identity. They were small orange documents, originally printed for the registration of prostitutes. The space for thumb-print was now filled with a passport photograph and at the head the word 'journalist' substituted in neat Ishmaelite characters."
Boot, despite his naivety and ignorance of the war correspondent's trade, inadvertently succeeds in trumping his more experienced journalistic competitors in reporting the war. Along the way, his adventures in Ishmaelia provide the perfect Waugh vehicle for a satiric dissection of the journalistic trade and of what passes as governance in the less developed parts of the world, where tribalism and nepotism more often than not underlie the veneer of ostensibly functioning political systems.
Boot, of course, returns to England, where he is now a household name. But one Boot is just as good as another, or so it seems. In the confusion of Boots, William, the real war correspondent, thankfully returns to his country home while his doddering, half-senile Uncle Theodore fulfills his role as the center of attention at the Beast and the prominent author John Courteney Booth (the man who started all this) mistakenly ends up with a knighthood intended for William.
"Scoop" is another brilliant Waugh comic send-up based on real-life experience, in this case his experience as a war correspondent in Ethiopia. It also is one of his best works, a little comic novel that will keep you in stitches from beginning to end.
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on August 6, 2001
.
This book is set just 54 years before CNN redefined the role of war correspondents during the Gulf War of 1990.
Back in the late 1930s just before WW2, the global powers were having a trial run ahead of the Big One. In those days, it was the newspapers (and not the TV networks) who called the shots.
Evelyn Waugh in his inimitable, over-the-top style goes right to the heart of the media business. It's not about delivering news; it's pure power politics. The egos of the media owner are the prime drivers of the machinations of this industry. Their bungling underlings are constantly in damage control and covering up their incompetencies.
Only Waugh could get away with these observations on indigenous Africa. His descriptions of the supposedly fictitious Democratic Republic in Africa (20 years before most of the continent went independent of their colonial masters) is pure clairvoyance.
Most of Africa today is just like his Ishmaelia. So-called democracies run by autocratic Presidents-for-Life.
This book as well as being a primer for foreign correspondents, is an excellent manual for students of African politics.
Unfortunately, for many readers on the West Side of the Atlantic, Waugh's subtle ironic style might be at times impenetrable. Rule one with Waugh is never to take things at face value. He was a brave and clever man to get away with the demolition jobs he does on his own class ridden British society.
Once you twig to his wit, his writing becomes a pure pleasure. There is never a dull moment. His observations on society, politics, business and the human condition are timeless.
Waugh is the master of 20th century satirical literary humour. Scoop is one of his best.
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on May 21, 2001
A lot of books complain about the world, but here's a book that knows that there's a difference between what actually goes on in the world and what gets reported as news, and that the news is only as good as the people that report it. Inspired by his own experience as a foreign correspondent, Evelyn Waugh's "Scoop" is partly a satire of journalism, partly a spy story with a well-crafted plot, and totally a masterpiece of comic writing.
Civil war is brewing in a fictitious African country called Ishmaelia. In England, a successful novelist named John Courteney Boot would like to be sent there as a foreign correspondent/spy, so he gets a friend to pull some strings with the owner of a London newspaper called the Beast, a paper which "stands for strong mutually antagonistic governments everywhere." The paper's owner, Lord Copper, has never heard of Boot, but accedes to the request and has his Foreign Editor, Mr. Salter, set up the engagement. Salter mistakenly taps John's less famous, less talented cousin William Boot, who writes a dippy nature column for the Beast, to be the foreign correspondent in Ishmaelia. So off William goes, a large assortment of emergency equipment for the tropics in tow, including a collapsible canoe.
When William gets to Ishmaelia, he encounters several journalists from newspapers all over the world who also are looking for the big scoop on the war. The problem is that nobody knows what's going on, as there is no palpable unrest, and the country's government is an institution of buffoonery. The events in Ishmaelia are reminiscent of the circus-like atmosphere of Joseph Heller's "Catch-22." While the rest of the journalists take off to the country's interior on a red herring, William stays behind in the capital and meets a man who is at the center of the country's political intrigue and lets William in on exclusive information. William manages to turn in the big story and becomes a journalistic hero back in England.
Lovers of good prose will find much to savor in "Scoop"; practically every sentence is a gem of dry British wit. Waugh is comparable with P.G. Wodehouse in his flair for comic invention, and indeed William Boot is a protagonist worthy of Wodehouse -- a hapless but likeable dim bulb who triumphs through dumb luck.
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on April 5, 2002
Waugh is one of my favorite authors and his work is consistently funny and scathing. Scoop is among his best novels. It relates the story of William Boot, who is mistaken for another person and sent to the country of Ishmael by a London newspaper to cover a possible insurgence. Waugh frequently writes about characters who accidentally bumble into situations, but this setup is one of the funniest. Unlike most of his protoganists, William Boot actually succeeds (for the most part) and how he does so is hilarious. As usual, Waugh has included a fool's gallery of supporting characters that add to the humor. Highly recommended for Waugh fans. People unfamiliar with Waugh might want to consider starting with the slightly more serious (and darker) "Handful of Dust."
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on July 14, 2000
Waugh's books are serious literature, of course--they show a fine sense of structure, a masterful command of prose, and a charming condemnation of the foibles of his (and our) day supported by a genuine understanding of the world.
However, as Crispin's witty mouthpiece Gervase Fen remarks in BURIED FOR PLEASURE, reading Waugh for philosophy is missing the point; his books are FUNNY. SCOOP is one of his most hilarious, making great comic fodder of the pretensions of journalism, politics, and England. One remarkable thing about Waugh is that he is a biting satirist who doesn't seem to dislike even the targets he attacks most ruthlessly--they remain humans rather than straw men, which makes the point better than any mere caricature could possibly manage.
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on August 2, 2001
During his lifetime, Waugh was seldom considered a major writer, but since then his reputation has soared, especially among rightwingers. Among the people who consider him among the one or two greatest English-language novelists of the last century are Tom Stoppard (who ranks him with Nabokov), Tom Wolfe (who ranks him with D.H. Lawrence), and William F. Buckley. (Leftist John K. Galbraith thinks Waugh the finest prose stylist.)
For whatever it's worth, I'd agree with Stoppard's ranking of Waugh and Nabokov at the top. And, to my mind, "Scoop" is Waugh's best. It's not a grandiose book like "Brideshead Revisited" but for controlled artistry, it's right up there with Nabokov's "Pale Fire." -- Steve Sailer
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on October 22, 1999
When I began working in journalism in Washington, I asked a senior reporter for the best book to read on working for a newspaper. Without hesitation, SCOOP was recommended to me as the most accurate depiction of newspaper work that had yet been written. This reporter was right.
This is a great book and a quick read. My only worry is that to fully appreciate the humor, one must have worked for a newspaper.
I laughed out loud at the comparison with Art Buchwald. Buchwald hasn't written anything resembling "humor" in at least 20 years. Here's a rule of thumb: if you think Art Buchwald is funny, don't read this book.
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on August 24, 1998
It would be a great mistake to think this is only a satirical look at 1930's English journalism and African politics. Nearly everything Waugh says is as true today as it was then. Only the names and technology have changed--and they haven't been changed to protect the innocent! As a journalist who's been to Africa, it seems right on target. "Scoop" is a very funny satire. Waugh's best, along with "The Loved One." Read it if you're interested in the media, humor, politics, history, or books that make fun of all of that and more. Talk about "Wag the Dog!"
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