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Decline and Fall Paperback – September, 1999
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Top Customer Reviews
Which brings me to Evelyn Waugh, and the novel Decline and Fall. I can certainly remember ... well, not /hating/ the book when I read it for a class in the Comic Novel, but now that I return to it a few decades later, well, sheesh, the thing has me in stitches!
Waugh is definitely a "deadpan" humorist. It may seem strange to claim that "deadpan" actually covers a wide range of styles, but it does. There's the literal (!) deadpan of Buster Keaton. There's the deadpan camera of Jim Jarmusch. There's the kinda-stoned but hysterical deadpan of MST3K's Joel Hodgson. And then there's the deadpan of Evelyn Waugh:
"My boy has been injured in the foot," said Lady Circumference coldly.
"Dear me! Not badly, I hope? Did he twist his ankle in the jumping?"
"No," said Lady Circumference, "he was shot at by one of the assistant masters. But it is kind of you to inquire."
I can still recall my professor's joy when she read this passage to us. I doubt most of us "got it" past the point of a distracted snicker or two. Wow, though, do I get it now. It's subtle, but it's also like a cannon disguised as a lemonade stand.Read more ›
The hero (although Waugh would disagree with the term) is Paul Pennyfeather, a divinity student at Scone College, Oxford, who as the book begins is expelled for "indecent behavior" of which he is actually innocent, and is promptly disowned by his guardian over the shame educed by this incident. Now, in need of money, he searches for a job, and the only one he can get is a teaching position at a small boys' school located in a Welsh castle called Llanabba.
Llanabba, while not quite rivaling Dotheboys Hall of "Nicholas Nickleby," is a woefully undignified educational facility, an institution of incompetence. The headmaster is a crafty curmudgeon named Dr. Fagan, the butler Philbrick is a criminal who prospers by constantly falsifying his identity, and the boys are an undisciplined and ungifted lot. The other instructors seem to have been deposited there for having failed elsewhere: Mr. Prendergast, a clergyman who has left the Church because of "Doubts," and Captain Grimes, a maimed ex-soldier ("Think I lost it in the war," he tells Pennyfeather about his missing leg) who is continually "in the soup" but always manages to extricate himself.
Romance, or rather that badinage between the sexes that passes for romance in Waugh's world, turns out to be Pennyfeather's bane, initiating his misadventures in the second half of the novel. His engagement to marry the voluptuous Mrs.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is one of English literature's great debuts -- okay, okay, let's forget Waugh's earlier scribbles -- and I give a copy to all of my friends in need of a lift after, say,... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Absinthe
Not my favorite Evelyn Waugh book, but still enjoyable. Seemed the most similar to "Handful of Dust", but less dark.Published 2 months ago by Tess
I ordered this book for the class requirement. This is a good book, and the shipment is very fast.Published 8 months ago by ClearBlueSky
Waugh's first novel, and some say his best. Unrelenting satire. His description of the Welsh village band is worth the price of the book, many times over. Read morePublished 10 months ago by David Hatmaker
Paul Pennyfeather's is an orphan studying at Oxford on a small allowance from his venal guardian to become a cleric. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Carol Mello
Not my cup of tea -- pure English rubbish on class -- not funny satire to me. I gave the star to the 'New Yorker style' drawings that accompanied the text. Read morePublished 14 months ago by KTMak