Monday, July 28, 2008

What is Alexander Waugh reading?

The latest contributor to Writers Read: Alexander Waugh, whose books include Classical Music, A New Way of Listening (1995), Time (1999), God (2002), Fathers and Sons (2004), and the forthcoming The House of Wittgenstein: A Family at War.

He reviews books regularly for most of the major British newspapers and has contributed cartoons to the Literary Review and the Daily Telegraph. His biography Fathers and Sons, a portrait of the male relations in his own family, was made into 90-minute documentary film by BBC 4. In 2006 he presented another documentary called The Piano – a Love Affair also for BBC 4.

His theatre piece Bon Voyage! (co-written with his brother Nathaniel) won the 12th Vivian Ellis Award for Best New Musical. As a classical record producer he has been responsible for a host of prize-winning discs including five MRA Awards and a French Grand Prix du Disque. As a publisher of the innovative fold-up Travelman Short Stories he won the Design Council Millennium Award for 2000.

One book he tagged:
Boswell's Life of Johnson which I never read as a youth. There's a wonderful letter in it that Johnson wrote to a women seeking his assistance in getting her son a place to study at Winchester. She wants him to write to an archbishop whom he does not know, on behalf of her son whom he has yet to meet. Johnson writes to let her down: "Hope is itself a species of happiness and perhaps the chief happiness which this world affords; but like all other pleasures immoderately enjoyed, the excesses of hope must be expatiated by pain; and expectations improperly indulged, must end in disappointment." I am not sure how much I like Johnson though I see he is admirably quick and intelligent. The most interesting aspect of this book is the fluctuating relationship between the subject and his obsessive, sometimes drooling, sometimes catty biographer. [read on]
Alexander Waugh is the grandson of Evelyn Waugh and the son of columnist Auberon Waugh and novelist Teresa Waugh. He has been the opera critic at the Mail on Sunday and the Evening Standard.

Related: Alexander Waugh: books on father-son relationships.

Visit Alexander Waugh's website.

Writers Read: Alexander Waugh.

--Marshal Zeringue