So in a recent chat, I mentioned that I had Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop on my to-be-read shelf, and a reader said something to the effect of, “You HAVE to read Scoop!”
Dear Anonymous Reader:
You were right.
It’s been a while since I ripped through a classic novel the way I tore through Scoop last week. It is brilliant, hilarious, sublime, a pinpoint satire with an everpresent smirk. It’s the novel I wish I could write.
For those who, like me, were introduced to Waugh by means of the good but serious Brideshead Revisited, here’s a quick synopsis of Scoop: John Boot is trying to land a high-paying, low-work job to escape from a persistent girlfriend. Lord Copper, the head of the tabloid newspaper The Beast, ends up with his request and hires the wrong man, William Boot, as their new foreign correspondent and sends him to cover the brewing civil war in the African nation of Ishmaelia. Misadventures ensure, including a question of whether the civil war brought in the reporters or whether the reporters (especially William) brought on the civil war.
I’m hesitant to say anything more for fear of ruining any of the jokes. It’s a hilarious book, laugh-out-loud funny in many places, and amusing throughout, with shades of Wodehouse in the snarky prose and Molière’s touch for satire, with almost everyone and everything in the book looking like a sendup of someone or something else. My favorite joke in the book involves the Ishmaelian town of Laku, including the origin of its name. You’ll have to read the book to understand why, but you won’t regret the choice, either.