Saturday, 30 November 2013

Inferior Book Group #3:

As you might have guessed from my lack of posts recently, I've been a wee bit busy this month.  Luckily, November's Inferior Book Group choice was a fairly short one, so I managed to get through it in time for my review!

Scoop by Evelyn Waugh was published 75 years ago, in 1938, and it did take me a little while to get used to the writing style.  Still, after a couple of chapters I was completely immersed.  I found some of Waugh's long sections of background or description somewhat jarring, mostly due to the difference in language and my lack of political knowledge.  I think the surprisingly modern dialogue helped to suck me in to the story, and to bring its characters to life.

Source: here

My Dad is a big fan of Evelyn Waugh's work, and has tried to get me to read his novels countless times.  This is the first one I've actually succeeded with, but I'm sure it won't be my last.  It turns out that one of my parents' many over used 'catchphrases'  - 'Up to a point, Lord Copper' - is actually stolen from Scoop.  Who knew?

As I mentioned at the end of last month's Book Group post, Scoop was actually recommended by one of my tutors at uni.  He assured my class it was probably the most accurate literary depiction of what being a journalist is really like.  I should stress that the book is satirical, but I could seriously sympathise with poor William Boot from the very beginning, as he unwittingly fumbled his way into the world of journalism.

'Look at it this way.  News is what a chap who doesn't care much about anything wants to read.  And it's only news until he's read it.  After that it's dead.  We're paid to supply news.  If someone else has sent a story before us, our story isn't news.'

Scoop essentially follows the story of the naive William Boot as he is accidentally promoted from rural nature columnist to foreign war correspondent at national newspaper, Daily Beast, due to a case of mistaken identity.  William has no idea what he's doing, but then neither do I.

Source: here

Some of the plotlines are charmingly old fashioned, and others not so charming.  A lot of frank racism appears, casually slotted in as part of a character description or within dialogue.  This may have been the norm back in 1938, but today it is uncomfortable to read, in my opinion anyway.

That being said, I had no difficulty connecting with the majority of Waugh's characters.  I cringed for and along with William through all of his trials and tribulations.  I laughed at the stereotypical journalists he befriended on his journey, and even recognised that sinking feeling when your colleague has a far better 'scoop' than you do...

I feel like Scoop is a novel I'll revisit several times, and appreciate more as I (hopefully) become a proper journalist myself.

For December, I'll be rewarding myself with a little bit of light reading (well, it is nearly Christmas, after all!) that I've been looking forward to for a while.  If you too love Mindy Kaling - of The Office US and The Mindy Project - then join me in reading her autobiography/memoir type thing, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns).

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