I said I wouldn't read any more Waugh, but Scoop was to hand. It's very funny. Perhaps- laugh for laugh- his funniest book. And then I read The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold- which is something quite different- a lightly fictionalised slice of autobiography from late in his career- almost a confession. It says on the cover that it's funny, but that's not how it hits me. Pinfold- who is Waugh by another name- goes on a cruise, takes too much chloral and starts hearing voices. The voices play on his insecurities and kick his public persona- a consciously-created piece of fakery, "as hard , bright and antiquated as a cuirass"- all about the ship. It's an astonishing book for such a private man to have written.
I saw Michael Hordern in a dramatised version once- in Manchester about thirty years ago. It was a star vehicle- a couple of hours of Hordern doing his- admittedly entertaining- Michael Hordern act- bimbling and bumbling and twitching and bitching. It wasn't very good. The book, on the other hand, is tremendous.