Waugh, Alexander 1963-

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Waugh, Alexander 1963-


Born December 30, 1963. Education: Studied at Manchester University.


Home—Somerset, England. Agent—Aitken Alexander Associates, 18-21 Cavaye Pl., London SW10 9PT, England. E-mail—[email protected].


Music critic and classical record producer. Mail on Sunday, London, England, chief opera critic, 1990-91; Evening Standard, London, chief opera critic, 1991-96. Also worked as an entertainment manager, concert agent, and documentary presenter.


Vivian Ellis Award, Performing Right Society, 1995, for best new musical, for Bon Voyage!; Millennium award, Design Council, 2000, for Travelman Short Stories; recipient of five MRA awards and the Grand Prix du Disque.


Classical Music: A New Way of Listening, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1995.

Opera: A New Way of Listening, De Agostini Editions (New York, NY), 1996.

Time: From Micro-Seconds to Millennia, a Search for the Right Time, Headline (London, England), 1999, published as Time: Its Origin, Its Enigma, Its History, Carroll & Graf (New York, NY), 2000.

God, Review (London, England), 2002, Thomas Dunne Books (New York, NY), 2004.

Fathers and Sons: The Autobiography of a Family, Headline (London, England), 2004, Nan A. Talese (New York, NY), 2007.

The House of Wittgenstein: A Family at War, Doubleday (New York, NY), 2009.

Contributor of reviews and cartoons to periodicals, including Literary Review and Daily Telegraph. Writer, with Nathaniel Waugh, and composer of the musical farce Bon Voyage!


Alexander Waugh is an English music critic and classical record producer. Despite being the grandson of the famed English novelist Evelyn Waugh and a member of the Waugh publishing dynasty, he studied music at university. This, however, led to a career in writing music criticism for various British periodicals. In 1995 he published his first book, Classical Music: A New Way of Listening. This was followed a year later with Opera: A New Way of Listening. In the book Waugh covers the technical aspects of operatic music and the theatrics of the performance. He also gives a history of opera, focusing on eight key works and using them as examples throughout the text.

In a Booklist review, Ray Olson commented that Opera is an "entertaining, informative resource … for music students and aspiring opera buffs." John W. Freeman, writing in Opera News, commented that "information is the key word," adding that "Waugh supplies plenty of it while avoiding textbookish tone or digressive padding."

In 1999 Waugh published Time: From Micro-Seconds to Millennia, a Search for the Right Time, which was published a year later in the United States as Time: Its Origin, Its Enigma, Its History. In it he outlines the various concepts, studies, and understandings of time throughout human existence, ranging from the Babylonians to contemporary European philosophers.

Ann Guidry, writing in the Austin Chronicle, called Time an "engaging and insightful probe into all things time-related." Guidry concluded that "by swirling ancient and modern philosophy with religious thought, with anthropology, with agrarian folk wisdom, Waugh concocts a heady mix to satisfy the inquisitive nature of every kind of knowledge seeker." Booklist contributor Bryce Christensen commented that Waugh's "witty and capacious book succeeds in conveying the richness of time as a cultural phenomenon, laden with historical irony, theological casuistry, and artistic subtlety." Christensen added that readers "trying to understand that much larger enigma" of humanity will be drawn to this book. A contributor to Publishers Weekly called Waugh's book "intriguing," but noted that "sometimes he presents legend as if it were truth, however, or makes mistakes." The reviewer concluded that "plenty of readers may enjoy Waugh's work, but its flaws detract from its appeal."

In 2002 Waugh published God, a lighthearted account of the different understandings of God across a number of cultures and religious texts. A contributor to Publishers Weekly noted that God "seems more like a Monty Pythonesque Book of Lists as Bertrand Russell might have compiled it." The same reviewer wrote that those who appreciate such humor or are critical of religion "will hail this encyclopedic mishmash." Writing in the Contemporary Review, R.D. Kernohan thought that "there is more flair than fury in the book, despite its preoccupation at times with the bloodier passages of the Old Testament, but not much, if anything, that has not been said before … in the last century and a half." Kernohan concluded by saying that Waugh "clearly enjoyed writing his book and wants others to share his enjoyment. Some may." Booklist contributor June Sawyers noted that Waugh "is erudite and flinty, possessed of a fierce, highly toned intelligence, and a wicked sense of humor."

In 2004 Waugh published a memoir of his family called Fathers and Sons: The Autobiography of a Family. He traces his literary-oriented family back four generations, focusing on the relationships between fathers and sons, as well as other family members, from his great-great-grandfather Alexander, to the author himself.

Clark Collis, writing in Entertainment Weekly, noted that Fathers and Sons is full of "hugely entertaining tales," adding that "English eccentrics abound in this look" into the Waugh family. A contributor to Publishers Weekly described the memoir as "an absorbing study of how writers process their most painfully formative experiences." The same contributor added that "it would be well worth the price" even if the memoir were published simply as an excuse to reprint the notes and musings recorded by Evelyn. Writing in the Melbourne Age, Ian Cummins called Fathers and Sons a "splendid and often very funny memoir." Edward Short, writing in the Weekly Standard, remarked that the memoir contains "some fascinating family history" and was "told with wit and brio." Short remarked that "anyone interested in the Waugh family, or family history in general, will find it an absorbing read." Joan Acocella, writing in the New Yorker, stated: "Fathers and Sons, together with Auberon's memoir and Evelyn's novels, puts us back in touch with a vanished world, that of the English upper and upper-middle classes in the years surrounding the First and Second World Wars. These people were extremely insular, and therefore confident. If something seemed silly to them, or even just unusual, they didn't mind making jokes about it."

Writing in Harper's Magazine, Evelyn Toynton noted that "the only really tiresome passages in Fathers and Sons are those in which Alexander, who has kept up the family tradition in his own way by publishing books on God and time, turns sneery about various ‘wretched’ and ‘humourless’ and ‘self-important’ critics of his father." Toynton added that "this is a minor flaw, an excess of filial zeal that seems wholly understandable in light of everything Alexander tells us about his relationship with his father." Christensen, again writing in Booklist, commented: "Alternately scalding and tender, this group portrait deserves a place next to other Waugh masterpieces." Robert Kelly described the memoir as "revealing, comic," and "serious" in a Library Journal review. Kelly concluded by saying that if Fathers and Sons "is any indication of Alexander's ability with the written word, then he, too, is a real writer." A contributor to Kirkus Reviews called the memoir a "candid, intimate and touching portrait of the author's masculine forebears, composed in nimble prose."

Waugh told CA: "I tried to be a composer, a cartoonist, a publisher, an impresario; whatever I did I found myself losing interest, or money, or both. I had a knack for writing and when faced with children and mortgages it was the only way I could earn my keep.

"I am influenced by any nonfiction writer who is able to combine a deep and infallible knowledge of his subject with a sense of humor.

"I write to deadline, spending years in research and suffering acute exhaustion, backache, and paranoia in the compressed period of creation.

"The most surprising thing I have learned as a writer is that writing gets harder as you get older.

"All of my books try to combine diligent research with a few good jokes. Fathers and Sons will always be the best as it is the only one that is personal. The books I wrote on music are not really books at all. I take no pride in them.

"I hope my books will encourage more authors to adopt the same style: to write works that are amusing, quirky, a little off-beat, rich in information, and painstakingly researched."



Waugh, Alexander, Fathers and Sons: The Autobiography of a Family, Nan A. Talese (New York, NY), 2007.


Age (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia), December 4, 2004, Ian Cummins, review of Fathers and Sons.

Austin Chronicle, June 23, 2000, Ann Guidry, review of Time: Its Origin, Its Enigma, Its History.

Biography, summer, 2007, review of Fathers and Sons.

Booklist, December 1, 1996, Ray Olson, review of Opera: A New Way of Listening, p. 638; April 1, 2000, Bryce Christensen, review of Time, p. 1421; May 1, 2004, June Sawyers, review of God, p. 1527; April 1, 2007, Bryce Christensen, review of Fathers and Sons, p. 16.

Book World, May 27, 2007, review of Fathers and Sons, p. 10.

Christian Science Monitor, February 26, 1999, review of Opera, p. 16.

Commonweal, November 23, 2007, Edward T. Wheeler, review of Fathers and Sons, p. 30.

Contemporary Review, September, 2002, R.D. Kernohan, review of God, p. 181.

Economist, December 4, 1999, review of Time, p. 10.

Entertainment Weekly, May 25, 2007, Clark Collis, review of Fathers and Sons, p. 88.

Financial Times, October 9, 2004, review of Fathers and Sons, p. 33.

Harper's Magazine, August, 2007, Evelyn Toynton, review of Fathers and Sons, p. 89.

Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2007, review of Fathers and Sons.

Library Journal, November 15, 1996, James E. Ross, review of Opera, p. 64; May 1, 2007, Robert Kelly, review of Fathers and Sons, p. 82.

New Yorker, July 2, 2007, review of Fathers and Sons, p. 66.

New York Review of Books, June 28, 2007, review of Fathers and Sons, p. 20.

New York Times Book Review, June 3, 2007, review of Fathers and Sons, p. 30.

Opera News, January 11, 1997, John W. Freeman, review of Opera, p. 50.

Publishers Weekly, April 24, 2000, review of Time, p. 77; March 8, 2004, review of God, p. 69; March 26, 2007, review of Fathers and Sons, p. 82.

Telegraph (London, England), September 1, 2004, review of Fathers and Sons.

Times Educational Supplement, January 10, 1997, review of Opera, p. 7.

Times Literary Supplement, April 19, 2002, review of God, p. 30.

Weekly Standard, June 25, 2007, Edward Short, review of Fathers and Sons.


Alexander Waugh Home Page,http://www.alexanderwaugh.com (December 31, 2007), author biography.