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Scoop

Evelyn Waugh was called by Time "one of the century's great masters of English prose" and three of his novels, including Scoop, have made Modern Library's 100 list. Scoop tells the story of William Boot, who is mistakenly sent to Ishmaelia (a fictional African republic) to cover the war there. Waugh's novel is a satire of sensationalist journalism and the ridiculous lengths to get a story. Scoop is based on Waugh's own experiences as a journalist; he travelled to Abyssinia, Ethiopia where he served as a foreign correspondent of an English daily paper. As he writes in the introduction, "I had no talent for this work but I joyfully studied the eccentricities and excesses of my colleagues." Consequently, Ishmaelia's geographical position is identical to Abyssinia and the description of journalists parallel what he saw in 1935 when he went to Ethiopia. The end of the book contains letters Waugh wrote to his wife and friends during his time in Abyssinia. One such describes his distaste for what was happening:
Nothing could be less romantic than my circumstances at present. There are something like 50 press people in the town, photographers etc. All told. There is no news and no possibility of getting any and my idiot editor keeps cabling me to know exactly what arrangements I am making for cabling news in the event of the destruction of all means of communication.
As you can tell, many events in Scoop are based on Waugh's actual experiences as a war reporter. I don't believe Waugh has respect for journalists; in his eyes, he believes the best jobs at reporting are done by people who are not journalists by profession. As one colleague explains to Scoop's protagonist, Boot, "News is what a chap who doesn't care much about anything wants to read. And it's only news until he's read it." Waugh's satirical take on the profession is a humorous and easy read, definitely one of the better ones to get through as I work my way through Modern Library's Choices (see what I've read so far here). Hope everyone is enjoying their winter reading! Rating: ★★★★★

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