Book Thirtyone: Vile Bodies

Vile Bodies, Evelyn Waugh

There are those kinds of books with titles that you often wonder about, and as you're reading the book you think, "When am I going to get to that part where I am supposed to realize the significance of the title?" and then suddenly you do get to that point and the words of the title hit you like monkey poop in the face and everything kind of sinks in? Ok, so this is totally one of those cases, but in the best possible way, I swear. Everyone talks about Vile Bodies being riotously funny and savagely satirical and wickedly witty and all that, but no one really talks about--or, no one told me anyhow--that there are moments in this book that will break your little heart. Case in point:

"Oh Nina, what a lot of parties."

(... Masked parties, Savage parties, Victorian parties, Greek parties, Wild West parties, Russian parties, Circus parties, parties where one had to dress as somebody else, almost naked parties in St. John's Wood, parties in flats and studios and houses and ships and hotels and night clubs, in windmills and swimming baths, tea parties at school where one ate muffins and meringues and tinned crab, parties at Oxford where one drank brown sherry and smoked Turkish cigarettes, dull dances in London and comic dances in Scotland and disgusting dances in Paris--all that succession and repetition of massed humanity... Those vile bodies...)

He leant his forehead, to cool it, on Nina's arm and kissed her in the hollow of her forearm.

"I know, darling," she said and put her hand on his hair.

Of course, it really is quite funny, even the names are utter silliness: Mrs. Melrose Ape, Lord Outrage, Lady Throbbing, Miles Malpractice, Lady Metroland, Ginger Littlejohn, Miss Mouse, and oh, the list could go on and on. And there's more: the madness and ridiculousness of all the party people, the engagement between Adam Fenwick-Symes and Nina Blount, which is either on or off depending on whether or not Adam has money, the drunk Major who owes Adam 35,000 pounds but can't remember when he is drunk.

This book is, to me, the just-right mix of funny and tragic, and thinking back to Brideshead Revisited, it quite similar really. Evelyn Waugh gets an A+ and a gold star.


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