A young journalist, William Boot, happily contributes to the Daily Beast by way of his superfluous nature notes. He lives with several family members in a rundown home outside of London and is quite content to maintain this simple lifestyle, but, alas, it is not to be. Through a series of comical misunderstandings, he is confused with another Boot and sent to the fictional state of Ishmaelia in Africa to cover reports of civil unrest and a potential war.
What Waugh manages to put to paper in this media farce is an uproarious tale of mixups, individual pursuits and just jolly good prose.
The docile William Boot is like a Mr. Magoo with 20/20 vision yet still unable to see what is happening right before him. He accepts his marching orders to Africa without much ado and, like Magoo, manages to survive without knowing what disasters he has avoided, and as the title implies, manages to get the scoop.
Lord Copper, the Beast’s owner, appears to be in the early stages of senility. He barks orders without hesitation and is feared by most of his staff yet he believes he is superior in his rank and in his decision making. Comically, he is the one that wonders over his choices, but no one has the gall to correct him so things carry on with outlandish results.
The Beast’s foreign editor, Mr. Salter, is so intimidated by Lord Copper that he can not even correct or disagree with him, but instead responds, “Up to a point.” When he is forced to go out to the Boot’s family home, more hilarity ensues. Like Boot’s arrival in Africa, he feels he is in foregin land and due to his disheveled arrival at Boot Magna, the family mistakenly attributes his behavior to drunkenness.
Boot is taken aback by Kachen, a young German woman living in Ishmaelia. She doesn’t give Boot a chance to answer her outrageous demands so just continues as though he were in total agreement at all times. Of course this involves his giving her money, buying her clothes, dinner, etc. She has a husband who has been about, and who by the way, has another wife, so they’re not really married, but they are, but you see…Get the point? She’s a fast talking manipulator who spots a mark in Boot and sadly, he falls for her lines, and inevitably, for her as well. Not to worry, their destinies are not with one another…phew.
Surely a writer who could capture the absurdities of life so eloquently would make for fine company. I’d love to hear more about the inner workings in the world of publishing and would imagine he’d be as funny in person as he is on the page. Perhaps a nice dinner…
My rating for Scoop is a 9 out of 10.
To see the entire list, visit Modern Library’s 100 Best Novels.
Please share your own reviews or comments by using the link below.