Press Release: Vile Bodies
Introduced by David Lodge
Illustrated by Kate Baylay
‘A savage study in public and private morals . . . It is uproarious. It is also ferocious.’
NEW YORK TIMES
‘A hectic piece of savage satire . . . I laughed until I was driven out of the room’
V. S. PRITCHETT
Ardently admired by Stephen Fry, David Bowie and V. S. Pritchett, Vile Bodies depicts the ‘Bright Young Things’ of 1920s Mayfair, a group to which the author himself belonged. These bohemian socialites lived in a whirlwind of drug-fuelled parties and extravagant practical jokes, outraging their elders and delighting the tabloid press. They were, said Waugh, ‘cosmopolitan, sympathetic to the arts … and above all ornamental’. In his portrayal of their frivolous, impulsive world, they and their relatives are reduced to two-dimensional, unlikeable characters whose names alone – Prime Minister Outrage, Mrs Melrose Ape – show the mercilessness of Waugh’s acid humour. The jargon they adopted – ‘how shaming’, ‘how too divine’ – is captured perfectly by his dialogue, while his exacting prose and rapid scene changes, described by the novelist D. J. Taylor as ‘a kind of filmic shorthand’, mock their fleeting dramas.
However, beneath this inconsequential facade lurks the mood of unease peculiar to the inter-war era. The Bright Young Things belong to a conflicted generation, at once shaken and made defiant by the horror of the First World War, and their debonair attitudes belie a sense of vulnerability which the novel’s sober conclusion proves all too accurate.
In an introduction written for this stylish new edition from The Folio Society, David Lodge explores his ‘favourite’ Waugh novel and the author’s mastery of dark comedy. Kate Baylay’s alluring illustrations complement her art decoinspired binding design.
Quarter-bound in cloth with Modigliani paper sides, printed with a design by Kate Baylay. Set in Perpetua with Anna display. 232 pages. Colour frontispiece and 7 integrated black & white illustrations. 9½˝ × 6¼˝.
UK £29.95 US $52.95 Can $64.95 Aus $65.95
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