Synopses & Reviews
If there is a literary gene, then the Waugh family most certainly has itand it clearly seems to be passed down from father to son. The first of the literary Waughs was Arthur, who, when he won the Newdigate Prize for poetry at Oxford in 1888, broke with the family tradition of medicine. He went on to become a distinguished publisher and an immensely influential book columnist. He fathered two sons, Alec and Evelyn, both of whom were to become novelists of note (and whom Arthur, somewhat uneasily, would himself publish); both of whom were to rebel in their own ways against his bedrock Victorianism; and one of whom, Evelyn, was to write a series of immortal novels that will be prized as long as elegance and lethal wit are admired. Evelyn begat, among seven others, Auberon Waugh, who would carry on in the family tradition of literary skill and eccentricity, becoming one of Englands most incorrigibly cantankerous and provocative newspaper columnists, loved and loathed in equal measure. And Auberon begat Alexander, yet another writer in the family, to whom it has fallen to tell this extraordinary tale of four generations of scribbling male Waughs.
The result of his labors is Fathers and Sons, one of the most unusual works of biographical memoir ever written. In this remarkable history of father-son relationships in his family, Alexander Waugh exposes the fraught dynamics of love and strife that has produced a succession of successful authors. Based on the recollections of his father and on a mine of hitherto unseen documents relating to his grandfather, Evelyn, the book skillfully traces the threads that have linked father to son across a century of war, conflict, turmoil and change. It is at once very, very funny, fearlessly candid and exceptionally movinga supremely entertaining book that will speak to all fathers and sons, as well as the women who love them.
"The scion of an illustrious and fabulously eccentric English literary dynasty referees four generations of father-son antagonisms in this scintillating family memoir. Waugh (God) focuses on the fraught relationship between his great-grandfather, prominent critic and publisher Arthur Waugh, and Arthur's son, the famous novelist Evelyn. Arthur was a hopeless Victorian who doted on his elder son Alec and warmly sentimentalized their family life and boarding school traditions, Evelyn was the disaffected black sheep who wallowed in drink, bisexual dissipation and modern cynicism. In contrast to Arthur's paternal overinvolvement, Evelyn tried hard to avoid his own children's company or, when contact was inescapable, to heap exquisitely refined derision on their heads. But while he found his seven-year-old son, Auberon, the author's father, to be 'clumsy and disheveled, sly, without intellectual, aesthetic or spiritual interest,' he managed to impart a legacy that emerged in Auberon's career as a notoriously acerbic columnist. Waugh often lets the diaries and letters of his compulsively self-documenting subjects carry the story, sprinkling in smarmy family anecdotes and his own color commentary. If this tome were merely an excuse to reprint some of Evelyn's hilarious jottings, it would be well worth the price, but it's also an absorbing study of how writers process their most painfully formative experiences." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
The Waugh family, writing books since the 19th century, is at once accomplished and eccentric. In this remarkable history of father-and-son relationships in his family, Waugh exposes the fraught dynamics that has produced four generations of successful authors.
About the Author
ALEXANDER WAUGH is the grandson of Evelyn Waugh and the son of columnist Auberon Waugh and novelist Teresa Waugh. He has been the opera critic at the Mail on Sunday and the Evening Standard and has written several books on music, as well as Time (1999) and God (2002). He is at work on a book about the Wittgenstein family centering on Paul, the world-famous one-handed pianist. He lives in Somerset, England, with his wife, two daughters and one son, Bron.