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Vile Bodies Format Kindle
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|Longueur : 338 pages||Word Wise: Activé||Composition améliorée: Activé|
|Page Flip: Activé||Langue : Anglais|
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The main plot concerns a group of young people from London's "bright young generation." They have monied parents and spend most of their time searching for the next party and amusing fad. The protagonist is Adam Fenwick-Symes, a poor writer who manages to live the highlife by being a hanger-on. He is in love with Nina Blount, but cannot marry her because of his economic status. The book chronicles his attempts at making enough money to marry Nina. As with other Waugh books, the characters are passive and do not really do anything, but they manage to have some terrible things happen to them!
The supporting characters are extremely funny, including the modern Agatha Runcible, the revolving line of Prime Ministers, and the various people who become the columnist Mr. Chatterbox. Of course, as with all of the Back Bay Books editions of Waugh's books, the cover and style are lovely. If you love Waugh, you'll love this book. Highly recommended.
"Vile Bodies," one his earlier novels, is prototypical of his career, featuring a protagonist who is beleaguered by misfortunes but manages to rise to certain challenges. Adam Fenwyck-Symes is a young author who would like to marry his girlfriend Nina Blount but doesn't have enough money to support her, and he has to write twelve books before he can get a decent advance from his publisher. For the time being, he rents a room at a boarding house run by a woman named Lottie Crump and inhabited by a disparate group of idiots including the deposed king of Ruritania.
Adam petitions Nina's father, a retired colonel who is either senile or eccentric or both, a wealthy man who's too cheap to buy a car or pay for bus fare but enthusiastic enough about the cinema to blow all his money on the production of a film about Methodism founder John Wesley, for some financial aid, but the old man's strings can't be pulled so easily. A ray of hope is offered in the form of the suicide of a local rag gossip columnist named Simon Balcairn who assumes the nom de plume of Mr. Chatterbox. Adam fills in for the deceased hack, documenting the antics of the partying crowd, nonchalantly embellishing and inventing items to make the proceedings more interesting to his readers and himself.
Waugh is brilliant in the way he constructs an episodic novel within the context of an overarching plot, each of his characters usually having one distinct idiosyncrasy that contributes something significant to the story. One episode consists of a drunken Major who bets Adam's money on a sure horse but never makes it clear whether Adam will ever get his money back. Another memorable scene is an automobile race attended by Adam and a few of his friends, including Agatha Runcible, a young lady who nearly immolates herself by carelessness with her discarded cigarettes. And perhaps the most salient extraneous character is Mrs. Melrose Ape, an American evangelist who travels with a chorus of winged "angels," each named after a Virtue. (Chastity's persistent misconduct with strange men is troublesome to the troupe.) Virtue or not, Discontent could never be as Divine as one of Waugh's novels.
This also features drunk on wine, silly conversations, and silly names, such as a stern evangelist named Mrs. Ape, an ex-PM named Outrage, peers named Lady Circumference, and a group of girls dressed as angels who perform for Ms. Ape's Christian charity. Their names represent certain virtues: Fortitude, Chastity, Faith, Humility, Prudence, Creative Endeavour, and the like, i.e. Victorian values. Yet their names do not mirror their personalities, as many of them bicker among themselves, which symbolizes the coming apart of Victorian values.
The story focuses on Adam Fenwick-Symes, a struggling and penniless writer whose success is like a series of W's: down, up, down, up... and so on. Having his novel, an autobiography, burned at customs for being possibly subversive, is just one of the misfortunes he runs into. He's engaged to Nina Blount, an engagement that hinges a lot on his being solvent. The most repeated lines by him: "I say Nina, we shan't be able to get married after all." or other variants.
Among his misadventures includes trying to track down a drunken major to whom he entrusted a thousand pounds on a longshot at the track, the numerous wild parties he goes to at the most happening places to be, "masked parties, savage parties, Victorian parties,...parties at Oxford where one drank brown sherry and smoked Turkish cigarettes,...all that succession and repetition of massed humanity...all those vile bodies," and trying to get Colonel Blount his blessing to be married to Nina, is itself a challenge, as the irascible colonel's memory is such that he's got quite a loose propeller.
But Adam's brief tenure as the gossip columnist detailing parties, of who was there wearing what, is itself a portrait of how the upward mobile, socially conscious trendies are addicted in trying to be where it's cool, even when Adam invents people and visiting a lunatic asylum, gives them noble names and describes their ailments!
Of the decadent Young Things, Angela Runcible has the most exciting moments, as she wakes up after a rowdy party dressed in a revealing Hawaiian outfit, embarrasses the family she stayed over at during breakfast, and goes outside the door to the delight of reporters. The address? Oh, somewhere in Downing Street.
There's a conversation on the younger generation between Father Rothschild and the ex-PM, where Rothschild remarks on the generation gap. From the Victorian value of "if a thing's worth doing at all, it's worth doing well," to the Bright Young People's "If a thing's not worth doing well, it's not worth doing at all." Rothschild mentions it also relates at a need for permanance, such as marriage, given the word "bogus" that the BYP use, years before Bill and Ted, and the number of growing divorces. And that's something Adam says, that a marriage should go on.
Vile Bodies is one of those great birds, a historical snapshot set among the jaded and decadent pre-war Young Things during the decline of the British Empire, all because Modernism is showing the upper hand over Victorian values. This decadence and pluck of youth would be reduplicated in the late 1950's, when the teenagers took power, but that's another era of Britain altogether.
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