Fathers and Sons: The Autobiography of a Family

Alexander Waugh, Author . Doubleday $27.50 (472p) ISBN 978-0-385-52150-5

The scion of an illustrious—and fabulously eccentric—English literary dynasty referees four generations of father-son antagonisms in this scintillating family memoir. Waugh (God ) focuses on the fraught relationship between his great-grandfather, prominent critic and publisher Arthur Waugh, and Arthur's son, the famous novelist Evelyn. Arthur was a hopeless Victorian who doted on his elder son Alec and warmly sentimentalized their family life and boarding school traditions, Evelyn was the disaffected black sheep who wallowed in drink, bisexual dissipation and modern cynicism. In contrast to Arthur's paternal overinvolvement, Evelyn tried hard to avoid his own children's company or, when contact was inescapable, to heap exquisitely refined derision on their heads. But while he found his seven-year-old son, Auberon, the author's father, to be "clumsy and disheveled, sly, without intellectual, aesthetic or spiritual interest," he managed to impart a legacy that emerged in Auberon's career as a notoriously acerbic columnist. Waugh often lets the diaries and letters of his compulsively self-documenting subjects carry the story, sprinkling in smarmy family anecdotes and his own color commentary. If this tome were merely an excuse to reprint some of Evelyn's hilarious jottings, it would be well worth the price, but it's also an absorbing study of how writers process their most painfully formative experiences. (May 29)

Reviewed on: 03/26/2007
Release date: 05/01/2007
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 297 pages - 978-0-307-48469-7
Hardcover - 320 pages - 978-0-7553-1254-2
Paperback - 472 pages - 978-0-7679-2748-2
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