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Modern Classics Scoop Paperback – Jan 2 2001
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About the Author
Evelyn Waugh was born in Hampstead in 1903 and educated at Hertford College, Oxford. In 1928 he published his first novel, Decline and Fall, which was soon followed by Vile Bodies, Black Mischief (1932), A Handful of Dust (1934) and Scoop (1938). During these years he also travelled extensively and converted to Catholicism. In 1939 Waugh was commissioned in the Royal Marines and later transferred to the Royal Horse Guards, experiences which informed his Sword of Honour trilogy (1952-61). His most famous novel, Brideshead Revisited (1945), was written while on leave from the army. Waugh died in 1966.
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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.
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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This book is set just 54 years before CNN redefined the role of war correspondents during the Gulf War of 1990.Read more
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