Monday, December 05, 2005


In class today we were talking about the reawakening of an English soldier after the end of the war. I guess that this novel represents the world in which he will awaken to. I don' think that it is the world tht he expected to find upon his arrival back into British society. The drunking, partying, and general debachery did not seem to be a part of his plan for his 'restarted' life. He was looking for a return to the way that Britain was, unaware that that world has been destoryed and is never to return. The days of robins on snow are gone, and have been replaced by empty liquor bottles on cocaine. The soldier is totally unaware of the destruction of his world. He has been in the Army for years fighting to preserve it, only to have it be destoryed by Britain itself. I think that he would have almost rather have stayed in the trenches than return to the Vile place that Britain has and will become.

iain

Sunday, December 04, 2005



After reading the novel, I realized that these characters have no real objectives or purpose in the narrative. The characters also seem to living in their own reality based on their personal interpretations and feelings. This becomes an interesting point of discussion when connected with modernist texts, as they seem to paint a reality (for the reader) by using different ways of description. By using shades, colors, and other literary devices that make each reader perceive the reality in the novel differently, the authors of modernist texts (especially Jacob’s Room & Vile Bodies) are shaping a reality that is different for each reader, as Waugh’s Vile Bodies’ characters’ reality is also shaped by these same impressions.


Impressionism plays a huge role in Vile bodies as it does in Jacob’s Room. The text is barely ever clear and straightforward, but it is instead rather choppy and difficult to follow until certain connections are made. First of all, there is huge issue with time. The text always seems to be jumping time gaps, and no indication is ever made until the reader him / herself figures it out. At times I found I was reading a page in before I figured out some hours had passed since the last page. I found that this technique was enjoyable as it challenges the reader to make these connections and to create the reality in his/her mind. However, I would not want to read many more texts like Jacob’s Room, as a chopping story and gaps in time make it rather un-pleasurable to read at times. But overall I certainly enjoyed Vile Bodies and would consider reader more of Waugh's books, as they seem to have a comic appeal that I find entertaining.

My final thoughts

I liked this novel a lot, but it was not my favorite of the semester. That honour belongs to The General. What I did like about Vile Bodies was the humour, its absurdity, and the characters, especially Chastity. I didn't like the ending (it just didn't work for me), the heavy emphasis on religion, and some of its modernist elements(ie the confusing scattered first chapter). The overall characterization of this novel was some of the best in any of the texts for this course.

iain
At the end of the novel, I found myself a bit sad about how everything turned out... Adam was in the war, Nina wasn't happy, Ginger was being cheated on, Miss Runcible was not quite in her right mind... Everything was fragmented in the end. In particular, the difference between the picturesqe Christmas morning and the "happy ending" was hard to grasp; there was such a difference between the two scenes. Perhaps this contrast between the partial healing and stabilization of Christmas with the family and the desolation and re-fragmentation of the war suggests that it is possible to overcome the First World War. However, while there is hope, there is also a feeling of innevitability. The "...circling typhoon" (321) at the end of the book seems to imply that such events are bound to happen. But, in the lulls of the storm, there is also a possibility of rejuvenation as experienced between Nina and Adam with their picturesque Christmas day and their boasted love.

My final thoughts on this novel:
I really liked it! Out of the novel's we've read this term, I really liked Vile Bodies the best. I think it was because it was so accessible and easy to read but, at the same time, it had lots of interesting issues to think about.
I was especially taken by the Angels as well as the novel's unexpectedly post-apocalyptic ending.
But, excuse me...
I think I need a green bowler hat now.
I believe Babar might have one I can borrow...


There doesn't seem to be any real love wthin is text. Yes, Adam and Nina say that they love each but I never really got the impression that they were actually madly in love with each other. To me it was more like they felt that they liked each other as friends and had noting better to do so they hung around with each other. I think this plays plays out well with the ending. When Nina leaves Adam for Ginger he is not that broken up about it. He instantly accepots it and tries to move on. Nina didn't even move on from Adam to somebody tht she loves more. She cheats on Ginger so easily that it is appearant that she no more loves Ginger than she does Adam.
I cannot remember any other ocasion where one character admits to loving another. Adam and Nina are the only examples of 'love' within the book. Waugh, and other modernist writers, are making a comment about the state of love and society after the Great War. THey are saying that the war destoryed the society's ablity to love. They are so shell-schock after the war that they can no longer feel emotions, and especially not love. This lack of abilty to feel even extends to those, like Adam and Nina, who did not sevre in the war.
With the ending to Vile Bodies prehaps Waugh is saying that another war is needed in order to overcome this shell-skock. The drunk General and 'Chaisity' appear to be on their way to an emotion, not love but perhaps lust, which would signal a rebirth of feeling in society.

Saturday, December 03, 2005


I know that both Vile Bodies and Jacob's Room are modernist text's but I find Vile Bodies to be the much more effective one. To me it is more the effective because while we explore its world and characters through a series of impressions, there are connecting threads that run throughout the text. Those threads are the characters that we encounter. In Jacob's Room we would meet some characters, other than Jacob, more than once but most of them would only show up befierly.
This device of Woolf created an unrealistic fog of confusion in her text. It created the confusion because the reader would be trying to figure out who each character was but never would be able to. The understanding that the reader would searching for would not arrive before the new character had disappeared. I found this to be unrealistic because most of the peoplie in my life I meet more than once. The whole 'novel' seems like a random series of coincedental meets between Jacob and a new character.
In Vile Bodies THere majority of the characters appear throughout the whole novel. This provides a bridge of understanding for the reader. Waugh and Woolf may be investigating the same themes, but I found Waugh to be the more effective because of this. Instead of trying to figuree out who everybody is, you can just read the novel and ythink about the issues it presents.

iain

Wednesday, November 30, 2005




After watching the movie I got a different impression of the book. I thought the film was well done, but it was definitely different. Like Iain, I didn't get that big of an impression that heavy coke use was a issue in the text, and to be honest, I didn't even think that cocaine was consumed in the powder form it is today in the 20's and 30's. Regardless, in the movie they were doing coke in almost every scene that involved Miss Runcilbe, and her coked out driving scene was rather humorous to say the least. I might be tempted to draw a connection to the highs and lows of drug use, as Iain has said, with the highs and lows of the First World War. Before the war had started, Britain was on a high, they volunteered for a patriotic mission that would end in glory and honour. Then after a few months they were consumed with lows of the reality of a gruesome war. I would suggest renting the film as I’m sure it will give you a different perspective on the book, and because well, it’s pretty damn funny!

Anyway, here is a link to the movie trailer if anybody is interested

http://iconmovies.co.uk/brightyoungthings/trailers.html#

Tuesday, November 29, 2005




In talking to Adam during class, he mentioned that the movie contains a ton cocaine being consumed. He mentioned that Miss Runcible was totally coked up during her driving adventure. In reading the book I never got the impression that any cocaine was being consumed. I thought thatAgatha was only driving so crazily because she was drunk. Adam also explained that her death was as a result of the drugs. I guess the element of drugs in the culture of the bright young things might further explain their behaviour. If they are constantly in a coked out haze then the confused, light, choppy nature of the book might not be only caused by the shell shocked nature of the post war society. It could be do to the highs and lows, bliss and strung out nature of drug addiction. The peaks and valleys of the book could follow the peaks and valleys of their life on drugs.

On a seperate note they used to put real cocaine in coke (the drink). This is how it got its name.


iain

Monday, November 28, 2005

I had a couple of problems with what the prof said in class. One of of my problems had to do with what he said about how the class structure has been destroyed in Vile Bodies. I feel that he is wrong in making such a claim. To me there seems to be a number of examples where the class structure is firmly entrenched. One example is the Mr. Chatterbox section in the Daily Excess. Who is included within the column? The upper class that is who. Those from the middle and lower classes are excluded from the very popular column. Much like the past three centuries the upper class is the centre of public interest and gossip. Wealthy or poor it does not matter, if you are a member of the aristocracy you are in the public eye and are allowed in Mr. Chatterbox. In fact Adam is fired for mentioning people who are not members of ther upper class. His invention of the Count Cincinnati is known to not be a member of the aristocarcy, and when Nina and Ginger include him within Mr. Chatterbox one more time Adam is fired. This is a symbol where memebership to the upper class matters. To belong in Mr. Chatterbox one must be a member of the upper class.
The example of Simon Belcarin's exclusion from the party, is because he is no longer acting like a member of the aristocracy should. I have been told in some class that the lower classes work and work hard, while the upper class doesn't work nor should they have to. Members of the upper class are above working, they should just live and never worry about money. Everything should and will be taken care of for them. Simon doesn't do that. He works for a living. He is no different than a clerk, and most clerks are from the lower middle class. Lady Metroland exclusion of Simon from her party was because he was no longer a member of the upper class, and thus not welcome at her party or in Mr. Chatterbox.

Another problem I had with what the prof said had to do with his claim of Waugh's idealization of tradition. The example the prof used was from p. 304 where Adam and Nina are waking up together on Chirstmas Day. He says that this is a perfect example of a traditional English Chirstmas. Except the whole scene is a lie. Adam and Nina are not waking up as a happily married couple, but as an adulterous duo. Nina is cheating on her husband, Adam is cheating on his friend, and they have lied to everyone in Doubting Hall about Adam's identity. On the holiest day in Chirstainity Adam and Nina are commiting at least two of the seven deadly sins: adultery and dishouring her father. Therefore this idyllic scene is a facade of coruption. I beleive that Waugh is consciously undercutting the whole idea of the traditional and traditional values. This scene is a celebrated one but it should be one of the most offensive to a Chirstain. The traditional scenes and values hide or mask the stink, rot, and coruption that lie underneath.

iain

Sunday, November 27, 2005



Here is an example of the war propaganda from Britain....obiviously.

iain

In response to Brenna's last post, I think that both Colonel Blount and the Drunk Major are representatives of the idea of shell-shock within the novel. The Colonel never has a clue about wat is happening arround him, he is constantly forgeting things, and he seems very simple-minded. I think that the drunk Major is also a symbol of shell-shock witin the novel because funnily enough is always drunk, forgets things, and is oblivious to others. Waugh seems to have made it so that every representative of the Army displays some signs of shell-shock. The ending is a prime example. The action jumps to a war, a great fog of confusion is present, and not everything was clear.

The shell-shock must have gotten to me as well because I did not understand the ending very well. What war was it? I thought the book was set in the 1930s, so it could not have been WWI, could it? Was Nina back with the real Ginger? Whose baby was it? If it was the real Adam on the battlefeild was it because his cheque bounced and ownership of Nina returned to Ginger? Perhaps One of you could clear the events up for me.

iain

Friday, November 25, 2005

Heyhey everyone...
I guess we're all starting to write our final papers (or at least thinking about it) and as I was considering doing the essay topic on Vile Bodies, I thought it would be fun to brainstorm a bit!

Ok. So... How does Waugh engage shell shock? I suppose the structure of the novel would be one way. As a novel which jumps around a lot, from one scene to the next, from one character's mind to another, the format of Vile Bodies is erratic (like a nervous twitch, say) and reflective of the fragmented state of mind of one experiencing shell shock.

Then there is Miss Runcible and her experience with the race car which lands her in a nursing home. Her behaviour after the accident is a violent reaction to her experiences with the race. Her mind becomes fractured and she has fits of delusion as she relives the accident.
See pages 284-285

What other novel and/or poem engages shell shock? I was thinking of Virginia Woolfe's Jacob's Room, perhaps...
Parade's End would be an obvious choice; I seem to remember something of shellshock in The General...


I "Googled" the word shellshock and this is what came up... Apparently it's a game.... Fun.

P.s. Go team!

Monday, November 21, 2005

Here is a post to the movie website for Vile Bodies: http://www.iconmovies.co.uk/brightyoungthings/

iain
Yay, we started talking about our book today!

Well, we finally got to Vile Bodies today in class, and I think a flurry of posting from our group will result from stimulating class discussion. I found the discussion of the dedication page of particular interest.

"With Love to Bryan and Diana Guinness"

How Ironic! The book is dedicated to a beer kingpin, and the novel is filled with drinking (as we have previously noted). This is interesting because it shows that this book is commenting on the political stances such as the "Future's Manisfesto" and Diana obvious facist connection. The fact that Hitler was the best man at her wedding to Mosley if significant as well.
Here is a link to a brief but succinct bio of Diana Mitford.
I am still struggling with a contextual understanding of Facism as it exists in Waugh's novel.
Although we may view The 'futurist' movement as rash and abrasive, it is evident that during the times following World War One intellectuals must have thirsted for something new and dynamic. The "futurist manifesto" (link on Engl. 340 blog) seems to capture a flavour of youthful fervor and rebellion that adds another dimension to the concerns of the "modernist" paradigm (here is an useful list of modernist characteristics/ defining features . It seems less ivory tower and more 'a movement of the people'. What came out of this movement? well I found an interesting link to a review for an album by Skinny Puppy which mentioned that Industrial music (a largely German genre) has origions in the Futurist movement because Futurism opposed tradition with an enthusiasm for dynamism, for technology, and for patriotic militarism- (from an online history of industrial music). This really makes sense in terms of the idea of progress and incorporating and (arguably) worshipping technology in this genre. Wonder what else came out of Futurism....
"It's a song of Hope. You don't hear much about Hope these days, do you? Plenty of Faith, plenty about Charity. They've forgotten all about Hope. There's only one great evil in the world today. Despair. I know all about England, and I tell you straight, boys, I've got the goods for you. Hope's what you want and Hope's what I got." (17)

In the first chapter of Vile Bodies, the angels are listed, but where is Hope? Because "Hope" is a proper noun, indicated by its capitalization, and Faith and Charity are both part of the group of angels, I was really curious as to why Hope was mentioned and given such importance but was not given a physical body or character. As a character who is not really a character but seems to pervade the text, Hope seems more important than any of the other angels...

I suppose the presence (or rather, absence) of Hope plays into the whole "possible redemption" undertone of the novel. With the singing of "...a song of Hope" (17) on the boat as a method of curing the sickness, Waugh suggests that there is hope for British society and their notions of stoicism, Edwardianism, constant drinking etc.
In class we were talking about Diana Mitford, Evelyn Waugh, and Facism. Another modernist with links to facism is Ezra Pound. He beleive in the cause so much that he left Britian and joined Mussolini in Italy. T.S. Eliot was also a noted modernist and a noted English Catholic like Waugh.
On the back of our novel is a qoute from Jessica Mitford. She was a sister to Diana, but instead of a facist she was a socilaist. The Mitford's had four daugthers two were ardent facists and two were ardent socialists. Possibly the two most divergent political positions in the modern political world. What must dinner have been like at their house. I guess the word harmonious would not be the word to describe it.

iain

In chapter one of Vile Bodies there is a scene in the "smoking room" in which Adam and som sailors attempt to play a game of cards. Maybe this is my off-the-handle interpertation, but I read this passage as an absurdist allegory for English stoicism. Everyone is trying to maintain their composure while playing "bridge" (a very English thing to do in a smoking room and an allegory for repairing the gap between Edwardian and post-ww1 fragmentedness) while the ship is tossing and turning. NO one will admit that the conditions are impossible to play in and Mr. Henderson trys to balme the "foreign food" he ate. It is a theme we have seen in all the literature we have read in class to date : The Edwardian games that distract from reality. A blind and deaf society. While stoicism is not bad, it has been perverted into a repression of realtiy and circumstance that needs to be dealt with.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Here are some more random thoughts I have had about the novel as I work my way through it:
-Colonel Blount ereminds me very much of Gen. Melchott (I think that is the spelling) from Black Adder Goes Forth. Both are from the military and both are utterly mad. Both Melchott and Blount forget about things, forget the names of those around them, and are as dumb as a post.
-This book reminds me greatly of two American Modernist Classics, The Sun Also Rises and The Great Gatsby. All three books occur after WWI, are about a certain group of young socialites with no quaims about spending their money or sleeping around, and the consumption of vast quanities is almost a requirement for inclusion in their society.

iain

Saturday, November 19, 2005

I like this idea of sickness we all seem to be playing with... While reading Vile Bodies, I felt that this constant theme of both sickness and alcohol were reflective of the social problems of the time, which ultimately led to war. As this novel was published in 1930, it is as if Waugh, having lived through both the First and Second World War, is commenting on the stoicism of the British and other schools of thought which led to the First World War (recall Parade's End and Edwardian/Victorianism etc) and also the new generation living within the post-war environment.

The novel is certainly set after WWI, and perhaps even after the Second, as evident in this passage:
"...they were selling artificial poppies in the streets.... it struck eleven and for two minutes all over the country everyone was quiet and serious." (84)
This situation of Vile Bodies in a post-war environment lends a strangly prohetic feel to the text, with the aplocolyptic ending of Adam, one of the "Bright Young People" of the post-war world, on the battlefield, as a plausible destination if things continue as they are (that is, Edwardianism, stoicism, crazy partying, drinking, forgetting the war etc). This reference to Remembrance Day (or, I suppose, Poppy Day in Britain) is only in passing and, in its brief mention, is perhaps addressing the danger of future generations forgetting the war and its causes (recall The General?).

I wonder, where is religion in all this? I guess the angels or John Wesley might have something to say in this or that... but um, maybe I'll save it for some (one else's) future post.

I thought this last image was super amusing... I'm sure this is what everyone in the novel is thinking!

"Adam had a glass of champagne, hoping it would make him feel better. It made him feel much worse." (84)

Friday, November 18, 2005

So far I have found this book to be an extremely funny one. Here are some of my favorite lives from the openning chapter:
"'Where is Chastity?' / 'Chastity didn't feel well...she went below.' / 'That girl's more trouble than she's worth.'" (2-3)
"You know I'm funny. I never feel sea-sick, mind, but I often find going on boats doesn't agree with me." (16)

iain
I have recently begun this novel and feel that I can possibly answer some of Adam's questions. I think that every one is not afraid of getting sick, but are afraid to show that they are sick. As English men and women they feel that they must maintain their stiff upper-lip. The English attachment to the ideas of stoicism forces them to hide any possible weaknesses that they have. Thus the passsagers on the boat consume vast amounts of alcohol in a attempt not to feel seasick and this not to show any outward weakness.

iain

Sunday, November 13, 2005


Seems like a morality play, which is in stark contrast to the serious literature we have been reading.
Good intro to the Modernists who question belief in foundations and religion....
but also rather obscure.
I was suprised to learn from the blog Iian posted that Evelyn was from a literary family but did not recieve much noteriety for his novel (While he was alive). His brother was more successful?
Anyways these are just preliminary thoughts on the way to the main course.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005




I read the first chapter of Vile Bodies and would like to post my initial thoughts. Having not seen the movie, nor heard anything about this novel I certainly found the opening scene rather strange. What follows is a list of some of the things I found odd and/or funny in Chapter one:
- the angels: What is their purpose? They seem so out of place in comparison with the other characters, who drink, gamble, and talk smut.

- Sickness: Why is everybody on board afraid of getting sick? Sure, they are on a boat, and sea-sickness occurs, but there seems to be a huge emphasize by the characters and the narrator placed on sickness.
"to avert the terrors of sea-sickness they had indulged in every kind of civilized witchcraft, but they were lacking in faith" (4).

"some had filled their ears with cotton wool, others wore smoked glasses" (6)

So is their sickness somehow related to their faith and sins? I am sure I will find out as I read further.

- The drinking: There seems to be a vast amount of drinking on this boat (maybe that is why they are worried about getting sick!), as there are references to it on almost every page.
"Double rum," she said and smiled magnetically" (16)

- The Character's names: Mrs Ape, Humility, Prudence, Divine Discontent, Creative Endeavour, Miles Malpractice, Walter Outrage(last week's P.M), Lady Throbbing, to name a few. These names were rather unexpected and funny.

I am looking forward to reading the rest of this novel, as it appears (from the first chapter, and from reading your posts) that it will be rather entertaining and amusing. Waugh seems to be a rather comical author who takes an original appraoch to novel writing, and I am sure that some of my questions regarding this strange first scene will be answered as I read on.

Monday, November 07, 2005

I just spent about twenty minutes writing a substancial and extensive blog post, but blogger.com timed me out and I lost it. So here is a much abreviated version of it.

Here is Roger Ebert'sreview of the film based on Vile Bodies: http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20040910/REVIEWS/409100301/1023

In this review Ebert mentions a blog and here is its web adress: http://www.defamer.com/
iain

Sunday, November 06, 2005

So, there I was flipping though the novel when I came across this little line:
“Why, good lord, the old idiot’s signed it ‘Charlie Chaplin.’” (109)

This reference to Charlie Chaplin reminded me of farce, slapstick and burlesque… and then made me think about whether these terms are featured within Vile Bodies.

Here are some places in the novel where I felt there was some definite “Charlie Chaplin-esque” comedy going on:

- When Colonel Blount shows his film at the Rector’s house (page 292) and Adam pretends to be Ginger. With the showing of the film riddled with ridiculous problems (such as the lack of sound, the audience being bored yet congratulatory of the film, the power going out), this scene is full of comic occurrences.

- The car race with Miss Runcible as the spare driver (page 228), the smoking in the pits and the near misses of lighted cigarettes into flammable liquids (page 234, 236), and the scene’s absurd ending with the race car going off the course after some terrific driving

- The drunk Major and Adam’s money (page 232, 240)

Monday, October 31, 2005

I know that I have already given two websites about Evelyn Waugh but here is another one: http://www.doubtinghall.com/ . The website is called "Doubting Hall: A Guided Tour Around the Works of Evelyn Waugh". It contains an introduction to the author, a timeline of his career, synopses of his novel, a further guide to Waugh's other works, a quote of the day feature, news, links and a guestbook to sign into if you really love the website (which I know we all will).
Happy Halloween,
iain

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

While reading Vile Bodies, I loved Waugh’s construction of his characters. I especially enjoyed the angels, Humility, Chastity, Charity, Fortitude, Prudence, Divine Discontent, Mercy, Justice and Creative Endeavour, as I was amused by their names as well as their personalities. When I first encountered the angels, their names reminded me instantly of the Seven Deadly Sins (pride, lust, gluttony, envy, wrath, sloth and greed). Just as the Seven Sins are associated with seven demons, I saw the angels as personifications of their names, though with a twist.

During the introduction to Mrs. Melrose Ape and her troop of angels, the attitudes and personalities of the angels are quickly revealed as rather catty and not as chaste as one would think an angel to be. Enjoying alcohol and the company of men, the angels appear to reflect the decadence of the Bright Young Things and their society. Their wings, ordinarily symbols of the divine, have become mere objects which they declare at customs and carry in boxes. This alteration in the treatment of wings suggests materialistic attitudes as well as perhaps representing a decline or corruption in the church.

And, because pictures are nifty…two angels, looking very innocent and nothing like what I would imagine Waugh’s angels to be like, from the Sistine Chapel, painted by Michelangelo.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Monday, October 03, 2005