December 30, 2011

If I say so myself

The NYT features an essay by Thomas Vinciguera, "30 Years Later, Revisiting 'Brideshead,'" on the famous 1982 miniseries of the Evelyn Waugh novel. The last paragraph includes a particularly insightful quote, if I say so myself.

58 comments:

David said...

I would be ashamed if I were quoted by the NYT.

Anonymous said...

Not really. Cable wasn't universal yet; even if you had it, there wasn't necessarily anything worth watching.

Ah, the "tenderness" of English schoolboys.

Mitch said...

I saw that! Congrats!

theo the kraut said...

Ones own, um, winds, smell the best, as we say in krautland. You're welcome, though, you fully deserve tooting the occasional horn. Keep up the good work, Happy New Year.

Auntie Analogue said...

This production of 'Brideshead' remains the finest television I've seen, the finest I know of. I have the original-release DVD set and in the long nights of each winter I delectate every morsel of it. For all of the production's sumptuousness, what actually hammers home Waugh's themes, espcially for a TV production but also for cinema works, is this 'Brideshead's' incomparable restraint in all of its respects - uncommonly fortunate casting, attentive photography, faithful writing, deft direction, and simply splendid acting. Complimenting its visuals and dialogue, 'Brideshead Revisited' has also Geoffrey Burgon's stately, yet anything but pompous, score. To my sensibility, Diana Quick's (Lady Julia's) anguished fountain scene - "Living in sin" - is in all of television the most powerful single dramatic moment; and Phoebe Nicholls's grownup Lady Cordelia's "Did you think 'thwarted'?" runs a close second as the most candid, disarming line ever delivered - in television such stark honesty, such faith kept with a novel, is for its uniqueness, impossibly dear. One may but wonder how Waugh - who held cinema and its coterie in baleful contempt - might have commented on this television gem.

Anonymous said...

I'm confused -- does the NYT now consider Steve Sailer to be a respectable source to cite?

I thought the whole NYT/Slate/Salon/etc. strategy was to "un-person" him, that is, to not mention him at all. Because if one mentions him -- even to denounce him as The Worst Person In The Whole Wide World -- one might state some of his arguments, or even induce some of one's readers to look up his blog. And re-stating his arguments, or encouraging traffic to his blog, could induce Crimethink. Therefore silence is best.

Gene Berman said...

Auntie Analogue:

I shitcanned "literature" and other "cultural" crap more than 60 years ago and have stepped in hardly any since. But your effusive and near-perfect recommendation has given me pause, making me wonder if my continued satisfactory existence might depend on acquiring some semblance of acquaintance with your topic.

But writing this has allowed me space to "sober up" a notch or two and, refocusing my intensely aroused curiosity, to ask a single question.

What is it that you sell in your regular line of work?

Ray Sawhill said...

Sailer in the mainstream!

Lawful Neutral said...

Steve, no offense, but if I had a job writing for the NYT, I would never admit in writing that I recognized your name. This Thomas Vinciguerra's got guts.

spandrell said...

The guy must think 'why is such a fine movie critic so nasty in politics? Why does he even care?'

Anonymous said...

"Look how great I am!"

This pattern is disturbing. What happened? Ego that fragile?

Wes said...

That's awesome. Is there a little bit of rationality in the Old Grey Lady?

Henry Canaday said...

Two other quick points:

“Brideshead” was also done during those ten anni mirabiles of British theater that produced “Evita,” “Nicholas Nickleby,” “Cats,” “Les Miserables” and “Phantom…” I think there was something in the air among British show folk then that made them want to swing for the bleachers in a way they have not for quite a while.

Around the turn of the 1980s, British performing arts enjoyed the extraordinary talent assets built up by subsidized stage and TV institutions but were feeling intense pressure to do something more popular and profitable with these assets. And they did, remarkably.

And then there is the eternal paradox. British movie and film people generally hated Waugh’s politics, economics and religion, but they identified with his esthetics and attitude. Like Waugh, artists love beauty and feeling superior. From his earliest days, Waugh’s novels prompted many loving adaptations.

Anonymous said...

Though I watched a lot of PBS when I was young--especially docus--, I always avoided the masterpiece theater-ish stuff.
I remember Jewel in the Crown was also huge. Didn't see it either.

I did see Forsyte Saga in the 2000s and must say that was quite good.

Someone should make a series out of Henry Williamson's Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight but it will never happen. Williamson has been buried for his politics.

Anonymous said...

For some reason, PBS had this attitude that British stuff was 'high culture'. They used to show stuff like ALL CRITTERS GREAT AND SMALL on PBS.
Ironically, Brits have been doing their best to be more American. While we were watching Brideshead, British kids were aping American culture.

dearieme said...

The lack of burning helicopter scenes imply that it can have little to do with the human condition.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure about the remote control theory. By 1980, every family I knew had a tv with remote.
Also, those who couldn't afford tvs with remotes--white trash and black trash--weren't the ones who were watching Brideshead.

Anonymous said...

"But in the end “Brideshead” still stands as the sine qua non of mini-series — “a relic from the ‘Shogun’ era, before the universality of remote controls sapped audiences’ patience,” Steve Sailer wrote in The American Conservative.

I hate to quibble when the NYT quotes Steve, but I have to ask. I thought "sine qua non" meant essential condition, ingredient, action, etc. But Steve seems to be using it to mean zenith, epitome, peak, or possibly "ne plus ultra." Is Steve's quote really a correct usage of "sine qua non"?

Kylie said...

"To my sensibility, Diana Quick's (Lady Julia's) anguished fountain scene - "Living in sin" - is in all of television the most powerful single dramatic moment; and Phoebe Nicholls's grownup Lady Cordelia's "Did you think 'thwarted'?" runs a close second as the most candid, disarming line ever delivered - in television such stark honesty, such faith kept with a novel, is for its uniqueness, impossibly dear."

Yes, those were marvelous and memorable moments, containing the essence of the novel, I think, along with the Cordelia's speculation of how Sebastian's life will end. After all, the novel is about the grace of God operating the spirit of man. That kind of gets obscured by all the frippery and finery of the series but it's there nonetheless.

Aaron Baugher said...

I'm surprised the NYT doesn't have some sort of SPLC-approved profanity filter to prevent such things from happening.

Anonymous said...

"Indispensable" is often prefixed the names of writers as vague superlative (e.g. William Kristol's 2008 hagiographical obit piece on William Buckley ). For Steve, the epithet literally describes his career arc: after a short and successful career in the 90s, influential people tried, and failed, to dispense with him. He was blackballed from even the conservative and un-PC National Review. Despite efforts of mainstream publications to disappear Steve from public discourse by refusing to publish him, they are often forced to cite him when want to say something insightful.
--Morgan C

Matt said...

If I'm going to invest that many hours into a story, I'd just as soon re-read the book. Don't get me wrong, it looks great and all. But that's one of the finest novels ever written, and enjoying it (again) as such is appealing.

Anonymous said...

Steve gets some love from the NYT! (Actually you deserve a lot more than that. As Derb wrote in his book, if this were a sane world, you'd be teaching at a university.)
Happy New Year, Steve.

Dennis Dale said...

Not really. Cable wasn't universal yet; even if you had it, there wasn't necessarily anything worth watching.

What a buzzkill. I have a girl I'd like you to meet.

syon said...

BRIDESHEAD,as book, series, and movie, has always bored me. Waugh needs sublime snarkiness (VILE BODIES, SCOOP, PUT OUT MORE FLAGS),not middle-class adulation of our titled betters.

Anonymous said...

"Marian Tasco is a Philadelphia city councilor who voted for DROP, an outrageous pension giveaway that allows the shameless and depraved to retire for one day, collect a six figure retirement payout, and return to work the next morning."

Incredible.

Anonymous said...

If you don't mind reading subtitles, try Misterios de Lisboa. The plots are involved and you really need to concentrate, but it's worth the effort.

Kylie said...

"'Marian Tasco is a Philadelphia city councilor who voted for DROP, an outrageous pension giveaway that allows the shameless and depraved to retire for one day, collect a six figure retirement payout, and return to work the next morning.'

Incredible."


What's incredible about it?

It's business as usual for her demographic.

Anonymous said...

re: sine qua non



"apotheosis" might work

Anonymous said...

I can see David Brooks in a generous mood firing off an email to the TV writer...."throw this Sailer guy a bone, the only interesting things I write are cribbed from him."

Dan in DC

Marlowe said...

Left wing British artists could dig Waugh because of a long standing sympathy for the plight of English & Irish Catholics who found themselves excluded from government and much of public life at the end of the 17th century (a situation only ended in 1826 legally and with lingering after effects into the 20th century). The Irish Republican struggle for independence from the British crown (itself the head of a rival religious denomination) naturally drew leftists into its orbit and so for a long time British Catholics (even Upper class ones with stately homes) enjoyed a regard not experienced by their continental cousins where the Church of Rome represented the ruling class and was therefore reviled. A very similar situation existed in the USA until recently (possibly the 1950s) where Roman Catholics naturally allied with Jews & other groups excluded by the Protestant Christian ruling class.

In Britain during the last 15 years this association has largely come to an end concurrent with the resolution of the Northern Ireland struggle and so British leftists have switched position and now happily attack the Catholic church for all the usual reasons. Back in the '80s though, English aristocrat Catholics still had left wing cachet as an oppressed minority.

syon said...

Perhaps the abiding deficiency of American conservatism is its lack of an objective correlative; British Tories can always fall back upon that which is seen, felt, and heard (Gothic architecture, RP accents, Eton and Oxford,the monarchy, etc) as their bulwark. Even the coldest liberal is not immune to their charms. American conservatives, in contrast, place their faith in the thin reed of ideology: THE FEDERALIST PAPERS, the pledge of allegiance, naturalization ceremonies-things that no man can truly love and revere.

Kylie said...

"If you don't mind reading subtitles, try Misterios de Lisboa. The plots are involved and you really need to concentrate, but it's worth the effort."

Added to my Netflix queue, thanks.

By the way, are you the Anonymous who recommended When a Woman Ascends the Stairs? It was very good.

morleysafer said...

The SEO operation continues apace.

What were the final Blogger stats? Already you're the top hit for people who can't spell "sailor story"

Anonymous said...

My favourite Waugh is Handful of Dust. But BR is of course brilliant in its own way. I understand Waugh thought of it as a serious literary work, whereas his usual style was a little more middlebrow.

Any BR readers who have not yet encountered Powell's A Dance To The Music Of Time should do so.

As regards the great pedantic controversy of the day, I concur with those who have argued that 'sine qua non' (that without which) could not have been the classical phrase Steve intended.

Gilbert Pinfold.

AC said...

I agree that this Thomas Vinciguerra has guts. I'm unfamiliar with him, skimmed his Facebook page:

"With deep regard and considerable appreciation for Christopher Hitchens' work, I must respectfully submit that ultimately it always seemed to be about him."

"From a 2007 AP report on Nancy Pelosi's intensely stupid visit to Syria: "Pelosi said Assad assured her of his willingness to engage in peace talks with Israel." Yeah, just as soon as he gets through slaughtering his own people."

Nanonymous said...

Is this how Thomas Vinciguera signals that he is a brave and independent man?

Tom Piatak said...

Still one of a handful of truly great shows ever to have been on television, and the best film adaptation of a great novel that I know of.

Christopher Paul said...

Guys, guys: the "sine qua non" bit was not Steve's, so relax.

Anonymous said...

i am sure that writer will receive a memo about quoting the 'wrong' writers.

Auntie Analogue said...

To answer your rather impertinent question, Gene Berman, I’m a retired engineer and beneficiary of what used to be commonly prized as a “well-rounded education” of a kind which I find now to have gone almost completely and, most lamentably, voluntarily and even popularly and adamantly extinct. Which explains why in both in the novel and in the miniseries I adore, and recommend to you, Lady Cordelia’s question to Charles Ryder, which he answers in succinct and deadly accurate affirmative: “Modern art is all bosh, isn’t it?” - as this may capture why you‘d discarded “’literature‘ and other ‘cultural crap‘,” since cultural crap only descended to become crap from, as Neil Postman’s book ’Amusing Ourselves To Death‘ makes a solid case, the advent of the telegraph; and it is, I consider, helpful to bear in mind that Evelyn Waugh was a redoubtable foe of what too many have mistaken to welcome, adopt, and celebrate as “Progress.”



To Kylie: Your criticism of “all the frippery and finery” in the TV production of ‘Brideshead’ is remarkably consonant with critiques contemporaneous with publication of Waugh’s book. Some years after Second World War Waugh himself admitted that in ’Brideshead,’ which he wrote during Britain’s bleak, rationed wartime years, he indulged in sensual excess which signaled to readers and critics alike his intense longing for the finer things (not just of aesthetic nourishment but also of spiritual vigor) which rationing and socialist utilitarianism absented - in many respects, permanently - from most of the inhabitants of the “scepter’d isle.” Curiously, in the decade or so following its publication, ‘Brideshead’ enjoyed considerably greater popularity in the US than in the UK, and to this day on both sides of the Pond readers, critics, and academics alike prefer the more elaborate US edition. (To all who might like to enjoy it, here’s a splendid companion site to the novel: http://www.abbotshill.freeserve.co.uk/AmContents.html )



To Matt: I should say that viewing the ’Brideshead’ miniseries enhanced, deepened my appreciation of and love for the novel, and that, for me, finding a film adaptation not only to compliment a book but also to deepen my appreciation for it is exceptional to the rule, as most film adaptations form a thin and most often unpalatable, even indigestible, gruel. In general, then, I concur, Matt, in your wise reluctance to view film adaptations of prose works; but in the instance of this miniseries I cannot recommend that you should persist in it. In fact I’ve yet to meet one who is fond of ‘Brideshead Revisited’ the novel who has anything but admiration - even reverence - for this miniseries, and who has found that it‘s remarkable for its uncanny, perhaps unique, worthiness, which helps to tell why, in my first comment on Mr. Sailer’s blog post, I asked rhetorically “how Waugh - who held cinema and its coterie in baleful contempt - might have commented on this television gem.”

Iberian said...

Shogun was also very funny... the Dutch speak english, even with the Japanese (Portuguese was "lingua franca" at the time); the captain of the Portuguese vessel (GaleĆ£o Negro"), was a south-american (mixed-race) with spanish accent...

syon said...

Gilbert Pinfold:"My favourite Waugh is Handful of Dust. But BR is of course brilliant in its own way. I understand Waugh thought of it as a serious literary work, whereas his usual style was a little more middlebrow."

Always a bad sign. Mark Twain had similar thoughts regarding his PERSONAL RECOLLECTIONS OF JOAN OF ARC, which pales in comparison to HUCKLEBERRY FINN. BRIDESHEAD is lesser Waugh, the one work where he abandoned his true muse in favor of adolescent sentimentality. To its credit, the miniseries is no more meretricious than the book, as both are essentially empty exercises in nostalgic yearnings for what never existed in the first place. Perhaps the ultimate testimony to its triteness is that it was a favorite of Jackie Kennedy's (cf the names of her children).Shallow calls unto shallow, as it were.

kudzu bob said...

Auntie Analogue: Outstanding post. We'll not see Evelyn Waugh's like again, I fear.

Gene Berman: Among Russians, to call someone "uncultured" is considered a deadly insult, the sort of remark that can only answered with the blow of a fist. They would consider your description of yourself to be the verbal equivalent of somehow spitting into one's own face. So do I.

Auntie Analogue said...

Thank you, kudzu bob; thank you for your kind, generous compliment - and for your indignant swipe at philistinism.

Gene Berman said...

kudzu:

Iyam whaddayam.

Gene Berman said...

Auntie A.:

Impertinence is in the eye of the beholden.

My (plain, I'd thought) intention was the diametric opposite of that
ol' Will tagged " damn with faint praise." But I've probably got a tin ear and ham fists along with flat feet. Some parts wear down, some wear out, and others just get calloused.)

I've read no fiction (other than newspapers and newsmagazines) for over 60 years without regret but admit your (original) comment made me consider, at least for a moment, making an exception.

I once met a super-salesman type who sold Boeing aircraft(and had later gotten into the business of selling "places in line" to buy them.) And then there was another who sold bank vault doors. When I asked him "How's business?" he answered, "Great! I sold one just year before last." I'd've pegged you for one of that caliber or even higher (like an evengelist, maybe).

Gene Berman said...

Kudzu:

"verbal equivalent of spitting into one's own face" sounds about how I'd imagine Russians speak (though I really don't know) and you could probably make a fair living by selling 'em something more mellifluous (e.g., "pissing into the wind").

Which reminds me of a TV newscast
from Russia I saw a few years ago. The Russian reporter gal, in front of a Moscow street crowd, was interviewing a man--witness to a horrific bombing of an apartment house (presumably by Chechens).

The guy went on (in Russian, of course)for some time. Every now and then. The gal would interrupt in order to translate into English for the TV audience. After a time of this, the guy said (in perfect American English) "and that's when the shit hit the fan."

The crowd roared with laughter (despite the tragic nature of the occasion). Ignoring the reporter-gal trying to regain control of the situation, they had the man repeat his narrative three, maybe four times, going into mirthful hysterics each time he reached his (apparently international) "punch line."

Kylie said...

"To Kylie: Your criticism of 'all the frippery and finery' in the TV production of ‘Brideshead’ is remarkably consonant with critiques contemporaneous with publication of Waugh’s book."

It wasn't a criticism, actually, just an observation.

I never can understand why people don't or can't see past the frippery and finery to the theme of the Waugh's novel--the operation of God's grace on man. I have the same response to people who talk about Greene's "thriller", Brighton Rock, only as a thriller. The twin themes of salvation and damnation are all over it--IIRC, the last line of dialogue is given to a priest who says, "Neither you nor I nor anyone can conceive of the appalling strangeness of the mercy of God."

The aristocratic excess of the former and the lurid criminality of the latter do not obscure their being serious Catholic novels written by Catholics who took their Catholicism very seriously.

Anonymous said...

Jackie Kennedy liked 'shallow' Brideshead. What are the chances Laura Bush or Michelle Obama have even heard of Evelyn Waugh?

Gene Berman said...

Anonymous (at 1/2; 10:30 AM):

With Michelle, not so much. But Laura, a pretty fair chance. Wasn't she a librarian?

Auntie Analogue said...

To Kylie: It seems that, like many others, you invest the word “criticism” with a pejorative, or offensive, sense inimical to it. Like it, or not, your first post on this topic ism, in addition to being a observation, is also a criticism or a critique - there is nothing wrong or mean in my having called it what it is. Observer and critic, and the verb forms of those words, are terms applying to those who furnish commentary, or to the act of commentary itself, on a topic. It would have been equally apt had I written, “Your observation of 'all the frippery and finery' in the TV production of 'Brideshead' is remarkably consonant with observations contemporaneous with publication of Waugh’s book." But then I did stray somewhat in writing of your observation as having been about the book and miniseries when it was actually about the wont of readers and viewers to bedazzlement and distraction from the central themes of ‘Brideshead Revsited’ by its “frippery and finery” - central themes which, I consider, are exposited and treated astutely by both the novel and the miniseries.






To Gene Berman: Your question was impertinent because it was off-topic; and, atop that, it was impertinent because it was personal. This has nothing to with a beholder or his eye and has everything to do with plain fact of the matter. I didn’t mind that your question was impertinent or I shouldn’t have answered it. You may be surprised to learn further that I seldom read fiction as I prefer to read histories, because it’s been my experience that real people run to extremes of character and behavior mistaken by too many to be found only, or chiefly, in fiction. Yet when I find fiction to be well-founded and masterfully composed, I try to give it deserving appreciation, or even accolade.

Anonymous said...

Kudzu:

I was reminded (by your Russians sensitive to "deadly insults) that we have significant demographic groups right here that'd stand right alongside 'em for ectodermal thinness.

One of 'em is particularly annoyed when called a "sonofabitch" on the stretch that it's a disapprobation of the recipient's Mom (and her apple pie). I even once knew and worked with) a fellow who'd been so treated and responded by killing his tormentor with three bullets in the face in front of the guy's wife and two kids. The guy was a tourist (unarmed) who'd pulled into a gas station and become impatient with its speed of service. My acquaintance was duly arrested, tried, convicted and served two years of a three-year sentence. His sentence was so light because, as he himself had observed, the other guy started it (shades of "Smile when you say that." from "The Virginian.") That was about 55 years ago and things have probably since gotten quite a bit more civilized, even in that remote backwater; not too many of his type and inclination left, I'd guess.

But there are plenty of a similar mind--just of a different color. They have an intense antipathy to being "dissed" (which we all know means "disrespected"). The big problem in encounters with their type lies in the fact that no one (including members of their own group) seems to have any reliable idea in just what a "diss" might consist. The wrong words, certainly but not solely (and no uniformity as to just which words). Maybe a "look" of some sort, I've heard mentioned.

One thing more. I didn't call myself "uncultured," though I can certainly appreciate that someone might get that impression and I, myself, would certainly admit to having many superiors with respect to whatever amount I possess. I'd just decided that I had had all I wanted of certain types (and so "shit-canned" more of the same).

syon said...

Anonymous:"Jackie Kennedy liked 'shallow' Brideshead. What are the chances Laura Bush or Michelle Obama have even heard of Evelyn Waugh?"

I would say 2 to 1 in favor of Laura having heard of Waugh, and 2 to 1 against Michelle.

RE: Religiosity of BRIDESHEAD,

I would argue that Waugh's Catholicism is more effective, more heartfelt, in such satirical masterpieces as SCOOP and BLACK MISCHIEF, where we see it in inverted form; sometimes the seeming absence of a thing is more eloquent than overly sentimentalized presence.

Charlotte said...

Maybe it's just that the first few episodes are the best, and the later ones, rather anti-climatic? Not so much the remote, as just that the series got a bit tiresome as it went on.
One really must read the "Loved One" to appreciate the snide undercurrent that Waugh had regarding death and the sacred.
His conversion to Roman Catholicism still baffles me. I mean, at least Oscar Wilde admitted he did it for the liturgical vestments.

no party affiliation said...

"Anonymous:"Jackie Kennedy liked 'shallow' Brideshead. What are the chances Laura Bush or Michelle Obama have even heard of Evelyn Waugh?"


Please. Laura Bush was a librarian. She knew about Evelyn Waugh and probably had read at least a bit.

Kylie said...

"To Kylie: It seems that, like many others, you invest the word 'criticism' with a pejorative, or offensive, sense inimical to it."

No, I don't. But I'm aware that many others do. I find the same problem with the word "judgment".

"Like it, or not, your first post on this topic ism, in addition to being a observation, is also a criticism or a critique - there is nothing wrong or mean in my having called it what it is."

I disagree. It was an observation only.

Anonymous said...

Effete epicene pouty young men with the bodies of prepubescent boys and the lifestyles of kept women was never my taste.

I Claudius was more my sort of thing. Also, The Onedin Line.

Oh, wait--that was the 1970s. By 1980 everyone was all hotted up wondering which quivering blancmange of copyrighted sartorial splendor was designing Nancy Reagan's latest ticky tacky lookee lookee I'm famous gown. It wasn't the remote controls, it was the metro role cons that only got worse that decade.