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78 of 79 people found the following review helpful
on August 9, 2002
It's London in the 1930s and novelist John Boot thinks he'd be the best writer for a special correspondent's job in Ishmaelia, East Africa, where revolution is in the air. He very well may be, but no one will find out because the powers that be at the great London newspaper, "The Beast" (heated rival of "The Brute"), mistakenly send his distant cousin William Boot instead. Poor William, who works for the paper already and was perfectly happy sending in his two essays a month on "Lush Places," is pulled out of his comfortable country lifestyle and thrust toward a greatness so great he could only stumble upon it by accident.
"Scoop" is an unrelenting satire of the tabloid press of Waugh's day. While it's arguably the most clever and well structured of the six of his novels I have read, imagine how much funnier it would be today if the general public didn't know so much about how journalists (even at the most respectable, unjaundiced papers) gather their stories. William quickly learns how the Special Correspondents submit their "eyewitness accounts" of battle from cushy hotel rooms fifty miles from the fighting, how a telegram of ten words will get turned into three hundred and splashed on the front page. And if the paper isn't happy with one writer, they can't send another because the journey from England to Africa takes three weeks!
As he does in "Decline and Fall" and "A Handful of Dust," Waugh once again shows us an Englishman thrown into absurd circumstances beyond his control who won't or can't speak up to save himself the trouble. Where "Scoop" improves, or at least differs, from the earlier works, is that William Boot does speak up for himself and it still doesn't help. He's no fool, however, and at least ends up in a better place than several of Waugh's earlier protagonists.
It's probable that "Scoop" doesn't get read much by students anymore because of it's racist undertones (and epithets) and seemingly casual treatment of revolutions in post-colonial Africa. Racist or not, what Waugh is really doing is making fun of the human race in all its varied colors and idiosyncrasies. As always, he saves his most biting satire for his fellow English.
An extremely well constructed book, "Scoop" displays layer upon layer of absurd characters and situations that Waugh pulls expertly together in a most satisfying manner. I thought he had really outdone himself with "A Handful of Dust," but I find that "Scoop" is now my favorite. Enjoy!
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37 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on November 25, 2001
In October 1935, Italy invaded the independent African nation of Ethiopia. The Italo-Ethiopian War lasted less than eight months, Emperor Haile Selassie's kingdom falling quickly before Italy's modern weaponry. It was a little war that, nonetheless, implicated the great powers of Europe and foreshadowed the much bigger war to follow.
Evelyn Waugh was in his early 30s, already the author of four remarkable comic novels, when he accepted an assignment to cover the Italo-Ethiopian War for a London newspaper. The enduring result of that assignment was Waugh's fifth novel, "Scoop," a scathing satirical assault on the ethos of Fleet Street and its war correspondents, as well as on Waugh's usual suspects, the British upper classes.
The time is the 1930s. There is a civil war in the obscure country of Ishmaelia and Lord Copper, the publisher of the Beast newspaper, a newspaper that "stands for strong, mutually antagonistic governments everywhere," believes coverage of the war is imperative:
"I am in consultation with my editors on the subject. We think it a very promising little war. A microcosm you might say of world drama. We propose to give it fullest publicity. We shall have our naval, military and air experts, our squad of photographers, our colour reporters, covering the war from every angle and on every front."
Through the influence of Mrs. Algernon Stitch, Lord Copper soon identifies John Courteney Booth, a best selling popular author, as the right man to cover the war in Ishmaelia. Neither Lord Copper nor his inscrutable editorial staff, however, is especially well read or familiar with the current socially respectable literati. Amidst the confusion, Mr. Salter, the foreign editor, mistakenly identifies William Booth, country bumpkin and staff writer for the Beast, as the "Booth" to whom Lord Copper was referring:
"At the back of the paper, ignominiously sandwiched between Pip and Pop, the Bedtime Pets, and the recipe for a dish named `Waffle Scramble,' lay the bi-weekly column devoted to nature: --
Lush Places. Edited by William Boot, Countryman.
" `Do you suppose that's the right one?' "
" `Sure of it. The Prime Minister is nuts on rural England.' "
" `He's supposed to have a particularly high-class style: `Feather-footed through the plashy fen passes the questing vole' . . . would that be it?' "
" `Yes,' said the Managing Editor. That must be good style. At least it doesn't sound like anything else to me.' "
Thus, William Boot, Countryman, soon finds himself on his way to Ishmaelia to cover the civil war for the Beast. Boot hooks up with an experienced wire reporter named Corker along the way. Corker teachers Boot the ins and outs of covering the war, a war in which reportage comes from little more than the imagination of the journalists sent to cover it and the editorial policies of their papers. The real nature of the war correspondent's profession is suggested when Boot and Corker go to the Ishmaelia Press Bureau to obtain their credentials: "Dr. Benito, the director, was away but his clerk entered their names in his ledger and gave them cards of identity. They were small orange documents, originally printed for the registration of prostitutes. The space for thumb-print was now filled with a passport photograph and at the head the word `journalist' substituted in neat Ishmaelite characters."
Boot, despite his naivety and ignorance of the war correspondent's trade, inadvertently succeeds in trumping his more experienced journalistic competitors in reporting the war. Along the way, his adventures in Ishmaelia provide the perfect Waugh vehicle for a satiric dissection of the journalistic trade and of what passes as governance in the less developed parts of the world, where tribalism and nepotism more often than not underlie the veneer of ostensibly functioning political systems.
Boot, of course, returns to England, where he is now a household name. But one Boot is just as good as another, or so it seems. In the confusion of Boots, William, the real war correspondent, thankfully returns to his country home while his doddering, half-senile Uncle Theodore fulfills his role as the center of attention at the Beast and the prominent author John Courteney Booth (the man who started all this) mistakenly ends up with a knighthood intended for William.
"Scoop" is another brilliant Waugh comic send-up based on real-life experience, in this case his experience as a war correspondent in Ethiopia. It also is one of his best works, a little comic novel that will keep you in stitches from beginning to end.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on May 21, 2001
A lot of books complain about the world, but here's a book that knows that there's a difference between what actually goes on in the world and what gets reported as news, and that the news is only as good as the people that report it. Inspired by his own experience as a foreign correspondent, Evelyn Waugh's "Scoop" is partly a satire of journalism, partly a spy story with a well-crafted plot, and totally a masterpiece of comic writing.
Civil war is brewing in a fictitious African country called Ishmaelia. In England, a successful novelist named John Courteney Boot would like to be sent there as a foreign correspondent/spy, so he gets a friend to pull some strings with the owner of a London newspaper called the Beast, a paper which "stands for strong mutually antagonistic governments everywhere." The paper's owner, Lord Copper, has never heard of Boot, but accedes to the request and has his Foreign Editor, Mr. Salter, set up the engagement. Salter mistakenly taps John's less famous, less talented cousin William Boot, who writes a dippy nature column for the Beast, to be the foreign correspondent in Ishmaelia. So off William goes, a large assortment of emergency equipment for the tropics in tow, including a collapsible canoe.
When William gets to Ishmaelia, he encounters several journalists from newspapers all over the world who also are looking for the big scoop on the war. The problem is that nobody knows what's going on, as there is no palpable unrest, and the country's government is an institution of buffoonery. The events in Ishmaelia are reminiscent of the circus-like atmosphere of Joseph Heller's "Catch-22." While the rest of the journalists take off to the country's interior on a red herring, William stays behind in the capital and meets a man who is at the center of the country's political intrigue and lets William in on exclusive information. William manages to turn in the big story and becomes a journalistic hero back in England.
Lovers of good prose will find much to savor in "Scoop"; practically every sentence is a gem of dry British wit. Waugh is comparable with P.G. Wodehouse in his flair for comic invention, and indeed William Boot is a protagonist worthy of Wodehouse -- a hapless but likeable dim bulb who triumphs through dumb luck.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on April 16, 2002
In October 1935, Italy invaded the independent African nation of Ethiopia. The Italo-Ethiopian War lasted less than eight months, Emperor Haile Selassie's kingdom falling quickly before Italy's modern weaponry. It was a little war that, nonetheless, implicated the great powers of Europe and foreshadowed the much bigger war to follow.
Evelyn Waugh was in his early 30s, already the author of four remarkable comic novels, when he accepted an assignment to cover the Italo-Ethiopian War for a London newspaper. The enduring result of that assignment was Waugh's fifth novel, "Scoop," a scathing satirical assault on the ethos of Fleet Street and its war correspondents, as well as on Waugh's usual suspects, the British upper classes.
The time is the 1930s. There is a civil war in the obscure country of Ishmaelia and Lord Copper, the publisher of the Beast newspaper, a newspaper that "stands for strong, mutually antagonistic governments everywhere," believes coverage of the war is imperative:
"I am in consultation with my editors on the subject. We think it a very promising little war. A microcosm you might say of world drama. We propose to give it fullest publicity. We shall have our naval, military and air experts, our squad of photographers, our colour reporters, covering the war from every angle and on every front."
Through the influence of Mrs. Algernon Stitch, Lord Copper soon identifies John Courteney Booth, a best selling popular author, as the right man to cover the war in Ishmaelia. Neither Lord Copper nor his inscrutable editorial staff, however, is especially well read or familiar with the current socially respectable literati. Amidst the confusion, Mr. Salter, the foreign editor, mistakenly identifies William Booth, country bumpkin and staff writer for the Beast, as the "Booth" to whom Lord Copper was referring:
"At the back of the paper, ignominiously sandwiched between Pip and Pop, the Bedtime Pets, and the recipe for a dish named 'Waffle Scramble,' lay the bi-weekly column devoted to nature: --
Lush Places. Edited by William Boot, Countryman.
" 'Do you suppose that's the right one?' "
" 'Sure of it. The Prime Minister is nuts on rural England.' "
" 'He's supposed to have a particularly high-class style: 'Feather-footed through the plashy fen passes the questing vole' . . . would that be it?' "
" 'Yes,' said the Managing Editor. That must be good style. At least it doesn't sound like anything else to me.' "
Thus, William Boot, Countryman, soon finds himself on his way to Ishmaelia to cover the civil war for the Beast. Boot hooks up with an experienced wire reporter named Corker along the way. Corker teachers Boot the ins and outs of covering the war, a war in which reportage comes from little more than the imagination of the journalists sent to cover it and the editorial policies of their papers. The real nature of the war correspondent's profession is suggested when Boot and Corker go to the Ishmaelia Press Bureau to obtain their credentials: "Dr. Benito, the director, was away but his clerk entered their names in his ledger and gave them cards of identity. They were small orange documents, originally printed for the registration of prostitutes. The space for thumb-print was now filled with a passport photograph and at the head the word 'journalist' substituted in neat Ishmaelite characters."
Boot, despite his naivety and ignorance of the war correspondent's trade, inadvertently succeeds in trumping his more experienced journalistic competitors in reporting the war. Along the way, his adventures in Ishmaelia provide the perfect Waugh vehicle for a satiric dissection of the journalistic trade and of what passes as governance in the less developed parts of the world, where tribalism and nepotism more often than not underlie the veneer of ostensibly functioning political systems.
Boot, of course, returns to England, where he is now a household name. But one Boot is just as good as another, or so it seems. In the confusion of Boots, William, the real war correspondent, thankfully returns to his country home while his doddering, half-senile Uncle Theodore fulfills his role as the center of attention at the Beast and the prominent author John Courteney Booth (the man who started all this) mistakenly ends up with a knighthood intended for William.
"Scoop" is another brilliant Waugh comic send-up based on real-life experience, in this case his experience as a war correspondent in Ethiopia. It also is one of his best works, a little comic novel that will keep you in stitches from beginning to end.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
I'm generally a fan of acerbic British fiction and satire, but haven't taken the time to go back and read any Waugh until I picked up this longtime talisman of foreign correspondents. The story concerns the efforts of rival newspapers to "scoop" each other with regards to a possible war in the fictional East African Republic of Ishmaelia (which appears to be a kind of mashup of Ethiopia and Liberia). The central player in this satire is an impoverished member of the rural gentry named Boot, who pens a soporific "Rural Notes" column for a London paper called The Daily Beast. The book starts in London, where a charismatic society lady arranges to have one her proteges, an up and coming young novelist also with the surname Boot, sent to Ishmaelia by the Beast as a special correspondent (with a commensurately special salary). Alas, through a mixup worthy of P. G. Wodehouse, the paper ends up sending the other Boot, who would prefer to be left to rot in peace in the country, but can't turn down the large salary on offer. This first part of the book is a lot of fun, with lots of great comedy, a wonderfully funny country household, and the society lady, who completely runs away with the show.

Alas, she disappears from the narrative as the wrong Boot heads off by planes, trains, and automobiles to Ishmaelia. From this point on, the story is intent mainly on skewering the news business at every turn, along with businessmen, politicians, innkeepers, and pretty much any one else who comes into contact with the hapless Boot. Some readers may find the portrayal of the Africans to be offensive, although to my mind, they don't come off any worse than the European characters, and if anything, seem a great more clever. Unfortunately, like a lot of comic writing based on exaggerated behavior, the book reads a little too much like slapstick for my taste, than it does nuanced satire. Of course, humor is often a matter of taste, so others may find it vastly more amusing.

On the whole, it's a book that would benefit from a nice ten page introduction to give it some context. For example, the reason Waugh is able to paint these preposterous portraits of foreign correspondents is that he was one himself. Like the first Boot in the book, he was a shiny young novelist whose lifestyle demanded a larger income stream, one which the newspapers could provide. Several times, Waugh held his nose and traveled as a foreign corresponded for the Daily Mail, despite being an apparently indifferent journalist who thought the profession mere hackery. In that context, this book might be interpreted as a work of self-loathing, in which he pillories himself -- since, by all accounts, he really indulged in all the worst behaviors that he satirizes in the novel. In fact, he had a kind of formula, whereby he would get paid to go on a trip as a correspondent, then milk that experience for both a non-fiction travelogue and a work of fiction. His first trip to Ethiopia was the impetus for his earlier novel Black Mischief, while a trip in 1938 to cover the Italian invasion led to a widely panned travelogue called Waugh in Abyssinia and this book.

On the whole, if you like comic fiction it's worth the brief time it takes to read, if only for the opening and some great deadpan stuff throughout. Especially amusing are the cryptic telegrams Boot gets from the head office. But on the whole, it struck me more as a broad farce than a surgical satire, and thus was a little disappointing.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on October 22, 1999
When I began working in journalism in Washington, I asked a senior reporter for the best book to read on working for a newspaper. Without hesitation, SCOOP was recommended to me as the most accurate depiction of newspaper work that had yet been written. This reporter was right.
This is a great book and a quick read. My only worry is that to fully appreciate the humor, one must have worked for a newspaper.
I laughed out loud at the comparison with Art Buchwald. Buchwald hasn't written anything resembling "humor" in at least 20 years. Here's a rule of thumb: if you think Art Buchwald is funny, don't read this book.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on December 26, 1999
Funny as hades. If you know anything about the newspaper business, yellow journalism, or even if you know nothing at all you'll love this book. Waugh pokes fun at everything from imperialism to the British upperclass in this satire of early 20th century journalism. A London newspaper mistakenly sends a garden columnist to cover a foreign war and the series of screwups that follows result in the story of his career. I highly recommend this one to anyone who likes a nice, light, and intelligent laugh.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on July 29, 2004
I throughly enjoyed Scoop. It isn't that this book is some sort of hallowed masterpiece nor one of those brilliant, brutal satires that summarizes the absurd actuality of a particular state of being or belief. No, Scoop is just, quite simply, pure fun. The story becomes rather obvious after a while, but 'obvious' not in a cliched or predictable manner, but in keeping within the consistant vein of Waugh's narrative voice here. Oh, sure, there are some still relevent statements made regarding the incompetence and petty biases of newspaper men and their dictatorial bosses and there is a clearly put case to be made about how newspapers are run by wealthy industrialists who use their ownership of the media to advance their own selfish agendas, but all of this ultimately falls by the wayside as we follow the adventures of Boot, a disinterested chronicler of seemingly important events he finds himself unable to even bother trying to understand.

This is a very good book, more like 4 and a half stars, rounded up, in this rare instance, just because it made me laugh out loud more than a few times. Enjoy--
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon April 5, 2002
Waugh is one of my favorite authors and his work is consistently funny and scathing. Scoop is among his best novels. It relates the story of William Boot, who is mistaken for another person and sent to the country of Ishmael by a London newspaper to cover a possible insurgence. Waugh frequently writes about characters who accidentally bumble into situations, but this setup is one of the funniest. Unlike most of his protoganists, William Boot actually succeeds (for the most part) and how he does so is hilarious. As usual, Waugh has included a fool's gallery of supporting characters that add to the humor. Highly recommended for Waugh fans. People unfamiliar with Waugh might want to consider starting with the slightly more serious (and darker) "Handful of Dust."
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on April 25, 2005
Yes, I'd be bold enough to name Evelyn Waugh as one of the world's greatest writers, a true genius when the word actually meant something (it's handed out too freely nowadays!); we shall likely never see his match again. "Scoop" is not only hilarious (I laughed out loud quite often), but the satire is as timely as it ever was. He is a keen observer of human beings and his depiction of the disorderly East African government and the Fleet Street news agency so given to politically motivated perks that a trick cyclist had been engaged to edit the Sports Page on a five year contract is spot on. All of the absurdity is wonderful. An absolute delight.
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