Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Loved One

1948, 1969 Dell Laurel edition
Evelyn Waugh
The Loved One
Original price 50 cents, purchase price 10 cents, quite a bargain
Not very worn paperback

Dark comedy of love among the mortuary crowd, with the female love interest named Aimée Thanatogenos, meaning "beloved tribe of death."  I have to agree with the original New Yorker review, "The freshest part of Mr. Waugh's story is the part which refers to the English in Hollywood, and we wish, wistfully, that he had concerned himself more exclusively with that theme."  It's not that the parts about the Forest-Lawn-inspired Whispering Glades and the pet cemetery Happier Hunting Ground are in poor taste.  They are, but the shock value is mostly gone, along with the resulting humour.  It's much more entertaining reading about a Jewish actress who became "Spanish" a decade ago and now has to be revamped as Irish by one of the British expatriates.

Waugh dedicated the book to his friend Nancy Mitford, but if I recall correctly, he didn't care for Jessica Mitford's The American Way of Death (1963), which I think is funnier because it's nonfiction rather than satire.  This edition came out not only after her book but after the now forgotten 1965 Terry Southern film loosely based on the novel.  The cover here is by, quite appropriately, Charles Addams.

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