Sunday, May 23, 2010

Rainy Sunday Writing

I love Brideshead Revisited. I read it my third term--the summer term--at Oxford. It was just the place to fall in love with that book. I was studying in the golden city that "exhaled centuries of youth." I had just turned twenty one. I took in Charles Ryder's exuberance, his articulated joy, his less articulated sadness, and his wanting to be vital. To describe your complicated, heartbreaking lost best friend and only love as "the forerunner" is a featherlight whisper of genius. To describe the wanting to live a truthful, connected, creative life as "finding the low door in the wall" is staggering.

Now I read it and remember. But now the second and third thirds of the narrative stand out in sharper relief than they did then. There is a scene in Marchmain House when Charles is painting. It echoes the earlier scenes at Brideshead when the magic held and heralded a perfect sunlit summer with Sebastian. In Marchmain House, the magic is of a different sort. He is painting the "four small oils" of the house and at each passage he waits for "the pile to be lost" and the spell to break but it doesn't. Each passage builds on the previous until he has, as Anthony Blanche points out later, "done something". And with a brutal lack of exactness, "Not all he can do, not all he will do, but something."

That is the carefully balanced, hushed moment of writing something you like. Later it can come apart and you may not like it anymore. Later you may move past it and wonder at its simplicity but in that moment, it is something.


  1. I love your sound like quite a character...I love characters...especially quirky ones...I am looking up your book right now...and thank you so much for visiting my blog!!!

  2. i am so happy you stopped by! the title has just changed and the book does not come out until february so i am not sure what you will find! it used to be called the orange girl. so glad you popped by!

  3. A wonderful description of 'Brideshead Revisisted' yet another favourite of mine. I am always saying this but I have so many.

    There is an excellent TV adaptation of this novel which is worth watching if you ever get the opportunity Priya. It is being shown on the Hallmark Channel in Italy at the moment.

  4. i love it! i have a copy in london and a copy in hawaii. it is genius. anthony andrews was the perfect sebastian and jeremy irons was the perfect charles!


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