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.