A successful, middle-aged novelist with a case of 'bad nerves,' Gilbert Pinfold embarks on a recuperative trip to Ceylon. Almost as soon as the gangplank lifts, Pinfold hears sounds coming out of the ceiling of his cabin: wild jazz bands, barking dogs, and loud revival meetings.
That's particularly sad in the case of Waugh, who often has great swathes of distance in his work. But here... well, I just can't help feeling like it's just a bunch of self pity. Had I come out of the book feeling like Waugh himself had learned from his Pinfoldian experience (i.e., that some of his various sillinesses were not harmlessly silly, but actually obnoxious), I might have had a better time. As it was, Pinfold comes out of it feeling like he's a superman who can defeat psychological disturbance with an apt phrase, and that therefore he's quite right to ignore the accusations leveled at him. Is that how Waugh felt? I can't help but believe that it was. If someone can convince me otherwise, I'd really appreciate it, because I suspect this book has made it much harder for me to go back and enjoy Waugh's earlier works.