Monday, February 08, 2010

Brideshead Revisited--Part 2

The twit Anthony Blanche had some funny lines. "I have told Cocteau about you. He is all agog"..."Real G-g-green Charteuse, made before the expulsion of the monks. There are five distinct tastes as it trickles over the tongue. It is like swallowing a sp-spectrum." I have never had Chartreuse, green or yellow. When I was in my late 20s I had a cocktail book out of which I was going to make and know all the cocktails, much as I keep lists of books and movies and places, all of which, the idea went, was going to make me a brilliant and desriable figure in company. It was a drink calling for yellow Chartreuse that largely threw me off this plan. I scoured every liquor store in my area--due to the state monopoly, this was not hard to do--for more than a month in search of the stuff, finally finding a bottle at a gourmet booze shop in Cambridge, Mass. It was $30--much more than the green by the way, which ran around 12. This was too expensive for me, and I didn't get it. Now I am 40, and I still haven't had it. Would it even be worth it now? Any hope I once had of ever becoming a sophisticated drinker is probably gone. My 30s, that crucial, make-or-break decade in so many area of life, was a wholly lost one to me as far as drinks go. I don't think I added anything to my repertoire in the entire decade apart from sloe gin fizzes, which at one point kept turning up in various media from the 40s I was consuming to the point that I felt I had to have one. But otherwise I don't really have any friends near to hand, certainly none who are anymore who are imaginative drinkers, I don't go to cocktail bars and I just don't have that interaction with people that keeps one in a stream of new experience.

Having an affair, it is explained on page 52, is more or less compulsory at Cannes. I am always on the outlook for sexy spots. No, I can't afford it, but it is often remarkable how little different one feels from someone who can.

p.66 "It was the first time in my life that anyone had asked this of me, and as I took the cigarette from my lips and put it in hers, I caught a thin bat's squeak of sexuality, inaudible to any but me." This is more my speed. Charles is like 19 here, by which time nowadays if you haven't already had a least a few women quivering under your stare, you can pretty much forget such things happening ever.

"The masters who taught me Divinity told me that biblical texts were highly untrustworthy." Lord Marchmain: "This house seems to have been designed for the comfort of only one person, and I am that one."

Charles (narrator): "I was nineteen years old and completely ignorant of women. I could not with any certainty recognize a prostitute in the streets."

Mr Samgrass (pedant): "She has a birdlike style of conversation, pecking away at the subject in a way I find most engaging, and a school-monitor style of dress which I can only cal 'saucy'." Stuff like this just kills me.

These literary and artistic circles one encounters in British novels of this time period are remarkably complete and self-contained little societies. People like me are forever looking outside themselves, their own environments, to have vitality and self-realization miraculously bestowed upon us. This is a pitiful mistake.

The people we aren't supposed to like in this book, to be honest, seem a lot more interesting than these twits we are supposed to like.

I liked the part where Charles rhapsodizes over the bathroom he used to be given during his stays at Brideshead, and its contrast with the "uniform, clinical, little chambers, glittering with chronium-plate and looking-glass, which pass for luxury in the modern world." The modern world really does stink, no matter what age you are living in (of course in 1945 when the book was published more than 50% of British households still did not have indoor plumbing, but when reading this genre of literature, one really doesn't take that level of society into consideration, so it is not fair to nitpick over such matters).

Along similar lines, I was certainly convinced that Julia was dishy, and I kept wanting more of her, at least in the early sections.

"I need my third glass of port; I need that hospitable tray in the library...I rejoiced in the Burgundy. It seemed a reminder that the world was an older and better place than Rex knew, that mankind in its long passion had learned another wisdom than his." These comments follow on discussions of the Marchmain's declining fortunes. People in books of this class are really into drinking, which I guess I like. It's hard to imagine anybody in them over forty training for a triathlon, or eschewing a second helping of beef.

"...the ball given for Julia, in spite of the ignoble costume of the time, was by all accounts a splendid spectacle." This ball took place in 1923. The 20s generally are my favorite period for fashion of all time, though there was a peak around '22-'25 even within that decade, I think.

"There is proverbially a mystery among men of new wealth, how they made their first ten thousand..."

The General Strike of 1926 provided some good material (Waugh was not on the side of the strikers):

"We were joined by a Belgian Futurist, who lived under the, I think, assumed name of Jean Brissac la Motte, and claimed the right to bear arms in any battle anywhere against the lower classes." I used to know a guy like that. He became very successful in business.

"'You should have been inBudapest when Horthy marched in,' said Jean, 'That was politics.'" Ha-Ha! I love this stuff.

Really though--what a life it was. Was it ultimately empty and unhappy? Was its upbringing, its education, of an inferior quality? Compared to what? At the very least, such unhappiness as they have is not from any desire to be substantially other than what they are. Shame and convictions of profound personal inferiority are largely absent from their lives.

I am tired and am going to close this here. Also I was sick this week, besides my usual busyness, and I'm still coming out of that. Wanted to get a post in though, you know. Hello to all the spamming commentors.

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