I was surprised to be reminded that Time still exists, but not at all surprised at the knee-slapper of a mistake its ill-read writers and editors committed recently on Time’s website.
One is entitled to wonder if the world benefits in any way from a list of “the 100 most popular female authors on college campuses.” But Time has served one up anyway. And at least it has given us a laugh, at the expense of Time’s expensively educated editorial staff.
No one should be surprised that college lit majors are turning the pages of Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf, and Toni Morrison (to what benefit from these last two can be taken up later — let it pass for now). But the Weekly Standard reports in the Scrapbook feature of its March 7 edition that number 97 on Time’s list of women writers was the late Evelyn Waugh. This should be very surprising to anyone with even passing knowledge of 20th century literature, because while Waugh was indeed a fine writer who always repays the reading time, he was in fact a man. A most amusing and cranky one. See Brideshead Revisited, A Handful of Dust, Scoop, The Loved One, Vile Bodies, etc.
Evelyn, pronounced with the initial short E, is almost always a woman’s name in the colonies. Evelyn, long E, in Britain is a man’s name.
The cat out of the bag, and Time’s literary ignorance revealed, the website has been changed and Evelyn Waugh is no longer Time’s honorary female.
The new number 97 on Time’s list is the French writer Marguerite Duras.
A huge fan of and fine chronicler of the ridiculous, Waugh would have loved this. Too bad he wasn’t here to see it.
And a final point. If those in charge of campus reading assignments claim to have found 96 writers of either gender more worthy of reading time than Evelyn Waugh, this can be added to the lengthy charges and specifications against the contemporary campus.
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