when you need to blow
off a little angry steam
a haiku can help
No, not that Waugh. His brother, Alec. Actually, there is rather a bit about Evelyn, but the piece itself, by former New Yorker theater critic Brendan Gill in his late-in-life memoir A New York Life: Of Friends and Others, is about Alec.
I am perhaps overly fond of reading harsh things about people of whom I suspect I am overly fond. Evelyn Waugh, for example. To wit: “Everyone who knew [Alec] was quick to say how unlike his brother Evelyn he was, and this was intended to be perceived as a compliment, which indeed it was. For Alec was charming and kindly and without, as the British say, ‘side,’ while Evelyn was a viperish and pretentious snob. Alec was content to be an upper-middle-class Protestant; Evelyn would have liked to be a member of the ancient Catholic gentry. Lacking that (to him) enviable ancestry, he produced an imitation that deceived no one and cost him much of his humanity.”
Oh, it goes on. “[Alec] mocked the devout Catholic that Evelyn had become, pointing out that he wasn’t so devout as not to have perjured himself with regard to his first marriage in order to obtain the blessing of Holy Mother Church upon his second. The church frowns upon a man’s having two living spouses; because a divorce has no standing in the eyes of the church, a marriage must be annulled, and the usual grounds for securing an annulment are, or used to be in the Waughs’ time, notably embarrassing – impotence, madness, malformation of the sexual organs, and so on. ‘At Evelyn’s urging, I, too, p-p-perjured myself at the annulment hearings,’ Alec told me once. ‘Evelyn had me lay it on good and thick…A whopper or two to help my saintly brother cost my conscience nothing.’” Life is complicated.
Now back to Alec, and now for the fun part. “All his life, he was mad about women; he married several times, and had scores of mistresses over a period of fifty years.” Yes, yes, and? Well, Alec liked to stay at the Algonquin when he was in New York, which was rather a lot. From there, he would venture out to various wonderful places for lunch – he was handy with an anecdote. “Still,” writes Gill, “I came to suspect that perhaps the happiest portion of Alec’s day had already been experienced by the time he turned up at one or another of his clubs and began to hold his companions spellbound. this happiness was linked to another establishment on West Forty-fourth Street, only a few hundred feet from the Algonquin: the turn-of-the-century Hudson Theater, which at the time I am speaking of had fallen on hard times and was no longer being used as a legitimate theater. It had been reduced to showing movies, and not ordinary movies…
“In old age, his once hectic sex life reduced to a jumble of delectable if no longer accurate memories, Alec took comfort in attending these pornographic movies. The first show at the Hudson began promptly at 11 a.m., and Alec arranged his schedule accordingly…One was tempted to hail him, old friend that he was, but no – he had an important appointment, and nothing must cause him the least delay in keeping it.”
One might, if one were a certain sort of awful person, take a certain measure of amused bemusement in the notion of such a tidy arrangement of one’s libidinous life, of words like “promptly” and “comfort” being applied to matters pornographic. I am not intending the least sort of blasphemy in saying that it sounds rather like worship – heading down to Our Lady of Perpetual Availability for the reliable gratification of that imagined communion…
I guess it’s true what they say: Happy people don’t write.
“Man, Christmas really hit me wrong…A hell of a Christmas; I don’t care if it never comes again.” – 26 Dec 1952
“Christmas, humbug. It broke up a long stretch of work.” – 30 Dec 1957
“There went Christmas; good riddance.” – 19 Jan 1970
“Lord God, here comes Christmas. Rackafrax, from start to finish except for the turkey and stuffing and giblet gravy; that I like. There used to be some sort of movement for putting Christ back in Christmas. Absurd. It couldn’t be done. He wouldn’t fit.” – 11 Dec. 1973
SPECIAL BONUS CHRISTMAS MESSAGE FROM UNCLE WILL – “God, Christmas was awful as usual.”
“Merry Christmas; or rather, by the time you get this, congratulations for having got through it. Bah, humbug, I always say, and I say it more fervently with every year that passes.” – 24 Dec 1977
It’s too bad we can’t all be together for Christmas, but tune into Korrektiv’s Pandora stations and it will be just like we’re gathered ’round the fire with our beverages of choice. Based on the favorites of the kollektiv and the kommentariat, we share with you:
And, in honor of our New Orleans pilgrimage: Dixieland Christmas radio.
The way it works is, you clicks on the link and it opens up a window and you can listen to the music. No big deal.
Merry Kristmas, Kollektiv and Korrektiv Korrespondents!