The Complete Story of Procrastination

“Procrastination” is such a dirty word – let’s call this instead “mental health work.”

Sometimes, as part of my ongoing mental health work, I take a tiny break by reading things that (in theory) are really not related to my dissertation at all, such as The Complete Stories of Evelyn Waugh (which, truth be told, was not complete in any sense of the word, as his novels are only available separately and there were pages missing from the content that was there).

Of course, everything comes back to my dissertation eventually (at least to me), so I’ll lead with the awesome quotes about maps (Part I), then give some words and a shout out to the Boustrophedonics (Part II), then just give you some quotes that I liked (Part III). Feel free to scroll to the bit that interests you most.

Part I: Evelyn Waugh on Maps

– “On our last evening in London I brought out an atlas and tried to explain where we were going. The world for him was divided roughly into three hemispheres—Europe, where there had been a war; it was full of towns like Paris and Buda-Pest, all equally remote and peopled with prostitutes; the East, a place full of camels and elephants, deserts and dervishes and nodding mandarins; and America, which besides its own two continents included Australia, New Zealand, and most of the British Empire not obviously “Eastern”; somewhere, too, there were some “savages.” – “A house of gentlefolks” (page 45)

– “The town of Simona stands within sight of the Mediterranean Sea on the foothills of the great massif which fills half the map of Neutralia.” – “Scott-King’s Modern Europe” (page 355)

– “The stream which watered it was not marked on any map; it ran through rapids, always dangerous and at most seasons of the year impassable, to join the upper waters of the River Uraricoera, whose course, though boldly delineated in every school atlas, is still largely conjectural. None of the inhabitants of the district, except Mr. McMaster, had ever heard of the republic of Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil or Bolivia, each of whom had at one time or another claimed its possession.” – “The Man Who Liked Dickens” (page 114)

Part II: Words, words, words

This next bit is mainly for my wordsmithing friends in the Boustrophedonics Facebook group, as it consists of words and phrases gleaned from the work of Evelyn Waugh:

(1) In “Basil Seal Rides Again,” a young man threatens to marry Basil’s daughter and mentions “Gretna Green Romances.” This is apparently appropriate, as Gretna Green is “famous as a resort for young lovers wishing to marry clandestinely in defiance of their parents’ wishes and of England’s marriage laws,” or, as wikipedia tells us, “a village in the south of Scotland famous for runaway weddings.”

Screen Shot 2013-12-17 at 4.00.39 PMHere’s a map, in case you are planning some “shotgun wedding” antics, as we call it Stateside. Actually, I guess that’s a bit different, as the parents are usually the ones with the guns in that situation.

(2) obsequious (yes, I should have already known this one because Mrs. Majeske was a stickler for vocabulary, but she also taught us to look things up more than once so we could remember them better so shuddup): marked by or exhibiting a fawning attentiveness.

(3) panegyric (noun): a public speech or published text in praise of someone or something.

(4) fourire (actually French): giggles, to get the giggles. (I should update my tattoo.)

(5) ascetic (adjective): characterized by or suggesting the practice of severe self-discipline and abstention from all forms of indulgence, typically for religious reasons.

(6) philistine (this one from / for Professor Loman): (a) a person who is guided by materialism and is usually disdainful of intellectual or artistic values; (b) one uninformed in a special area of knowledge. Not to be confused with Philistine.

(7) epigram (noun): a pithy saying or remark expressing an idea in a clever and amusing way.

(8) aphorism: an original thought, spoken or written in a laconic (concise) and memorable form.

(9) florid: (a) having a red or flushed complexion; (b) elaborately or excessively intricate or complicated. Not to be confused with Florida, which, as far as I can tell (if you trust the USPS), means “flowers” or “flowery,” probably.

Part III: Quotes About Novels, Social Inequality, Suicide, et al.

“[S]he had been brought up to believe that to read a novel before luncheon was one of the gravest sins it was possible for a gentlewoman to commit.” – “An Englishman’s home” (page 199)

“He took up with listless repulsion and began to read.

‘From considerations of this nature,’ he read, ‘which, while not true of every person, taken individually, are yet on the average true, it may be inferred, with approximate accuracy, that by adding to the wealth of the poor, something taken, by some recognised and legal process, from the wealth of the rich, while some dissatisfaction as well as satisfaction is inevitably caused, yet, provided that the poor be greater in number than the rich, the satisfaction is greater than the dissatisfaction. Inequality of wealth, insofar as…’

It was all ineffably tedious. He tossed the book on to the table in the corner and taking up a novel passed the next half hour in dissatisfied gloom.” – pages 486-7

“Does everyone have to have all these things?” Lucy asked, aghast at the multitude of medical and nursery supplies which began to pour into the house. “Everyone who can afford them,” said Sister Kemp briskly, unconscious of irony. Roger found some comfort in generalizing. “It’s anthropologically very interesting,” he said, “all this purely ceremonial accumulation of rubbish—like turtle doves brought to the gates of a temple. Everyone according to his means sacrificing to the racial god of hygiene.” – “Lucy Simmonds” (page 283)

“[A]ny particularly sweeping cynicism was a ‘fundamental principle’ with Travers.” – page 488

“Most undergraduates would kill themselves sooner or later if they stayed up long enough, very few would kill anyone else.” – page 516

“[I]t has, as of course, you are aware, always been a principle of University government so far as is possible to impede and nullify the workings of the ordinary courts of law. In this case it seems particularly advisable…” – page 520

“At the University no one ever does any work until just before the exams. Then they sit up all night with black coffee and strychnine.” – “Charles Ryder’s Schooldays” (page 304)

And, just in time for the holiday season:

“Santa-Claus-tide was near. Shops were full of shoddy little dolls. Children in the schools sang old ditties about peace and goodwill. Strikers went back to work in order to qualify for their seasonal bonus. Electric bulbs were hung in the conifers…” – “Love Among the Ruins” (page 430)

Hope you’ve enjoyed this tour de Waugh!

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