Just the other day in a disc, I and my friends were quite appalled to see a bunch of really young looking kids drinking, smoking and dancing away to glory way past the prescribed bed times for people their age. Their callous attitude and overt amorous behavior and our obvious disgust for it made me feel for the first time that perhaps the new generation has come in and we have moved to the next level. And I suppose like every generation, even ours has not escaped the trap of assuming that the next one is decadent and shallow. Of course the ‘Bright young things’ will protest – as we did when we were in their shoes.
Evelyn Waugh’s novel ‘Vile Bodies‘ is a satirical take on the lifestyle of these bright young people and is a brilliantly funny work. After a series of serious narratives, reading Waugh was like a breath of freshness, even if the humor towards the end grew dry and derived its punch exclusively from ‘tragedies’. The tragedies however did not trouble the happy go lucky young things who went on with their partying even in the face of worst calamities. Their biggest fear every night was something else – something aptly described by Waugh in this line:
Soon someone would say those fatal words, ‘Well I think it’s time for me to go to bed. Can I give any one a lift to Knightsbridge?’ and the party would be over.
So night after night, this group of people party-hopped – ranging from airship parties to masked parties to drunken brawls at the Downing street.
The book is a story of one such person who keeps running into money and subsequent losses of it, accordingly breaking and keeping his engagement to his sweetheart. It begins on a very light note and the humor arises out of truly comic situations (like a forgetful father in law), however at some point it passes into a dark tale of irony and becomes a shade depressive.
It is amusing to see that generations don’t change, and even in the midst of a social party of their own, the parents worry over the mindless parties of their young, and as the two parties (that of the young and the old) are described almost in parallel, there is very little contrast you can see in the uselessness of each.