Thursday, February 18, 2010

Brideshead Revisited--Part 3

With pictures from the recent film adaptation, which look to be well researched.

I was on vacation for a week or so, which is why I haven't posted anything. I didn't take a computer with me, and I'll be honest, I didn't miss it. The last few posts before I left were quite grim. Hopefully it will be at least a couple of weeks before I descend to that state of mind again.

Among the many old school delights of Brideshead Revisited, we get one of my particular favorites, traveling in the developing world under the colonial system, such that one arrives in say,Fez, as Ryder does at one point, rings up and dines with the local British consul in "his charming house by the walls of the old town" and carries on such discourse as "the Moors are a tricky lot; they don't hold with drink and our young friend, as you may know, spends most of his day drinking."

"I loved buildings that grew silently with the centuries, catching and keeping the best of each generation...in the last decade of their grandeur, Englishmen seemed for the first time to become conscious of what before was taken for granted, and to salute their achievement at the moment of extinction." This sentence doesn't mean a lot to me personally, and I am not sure that I believe the second part of it is true, but it is stated in a very compelling way, and neatly. The vulgarization of civilization is a common lament of the most cultured people seemingly in every era, but the 30s variation of it had a little more sting than it usually carries because many of the people leading the lamenting were uncommonly well-cultured, and in the case of the English at least were frequently walking repositories of that nation's entire linguistic and literary history and development. Still, I don't have a lot of patience for such snobbery. What do such people expect, to rule unchallenged and unabated forever? Even if their ancestors did build a great nation and create a dynamic culture, after enough generations the multitudes who do not care about this, either native or domestic, will reach a critical mass and force the old regime at least out of its extreme comfort zone. It always happens.

The characters in this book always have excellent comebacks whenever they get into arguments. I frequent get into similar arugments, only I never have the comebacks to stay in them longer than 10 or 15 seconds.

There is a reference to Popeye on page 221 which I was not expecting, so naturally I thought it was hilarious. Lady Celia trying to explain to a dull-witted American senator at a dinner party that an acquaintance of hers resembles the English comic newspaper character Captain Foulenough. The American doesn't get this, so it is explained that he is something like Popeye.

There is a good section in which the extraordinary skill of a barber is described. The excellences achieved by various members of the British servant class under the old system were nothing to scoff at, especially when compared with that same class today, which seems to be constituted of some of the most degraded human beings on the planet.

These people really knew how to arrange their affairs. When Charles returned to England after being away from his wife and children--one of whom he had never yet seen--for two years in South America painting and doing research, he puts off going all the way home for another week to keep canoodling with Julia. The diaper-changing, stroller-pushing marmot men of my generation don't even know how to politely decline their wives' orders to get up and feed the baby a bottle at 3am. Have an affair with a woman you encountered on a boat and put off coming home for a week, without consequences? Dream on.

I'm not sure it is in good taste to admit it, but I really have always wanted to belong to a private dining club (I added in parentheses "Not a gay one though", which I assume refers to the prevailing atmosphere in such a club in the book).

"I have the fancy for rather spicy things, you know, not for the shade of the cedar tree, the cucumber sandwich, the silver cream-jug, the English girl dressed in whatever English girls do wear for tennis--not that, not Jane Austen, not M-m-miss M-m-mitford." I don't like cucumber sandwiches either, but Miss Mitford in tennis dress with a silver cream jug under the cedar tree, well, I'm all over that.

"You are not a young man. You do not seem strong to me...No, I don't want to be trained. I don't want to do things that need training." This is me. I guess I am just very aristocratic.

Though I am gushing over these characters' brilliance a lot, especially their fluency of speech, at one point I did write 'Are these people really smarter than middlebrows? They sure think they are.'

When Lord Marchmain returned to Brideshead after many years abroad, it is described as a spectacle, with banners being hung in the village and the houses of the common people decorated. This sort of thing was still going on in 1939? Jeesh.

A main character dies at this point. This process is rather drawn out and boring. Being me, all I could think was, Christ don't these people ever have to do anything? The answer to which, by the way is, No, they don't, thank you for inquiring.

What is my last item? The priest's art questions ("Would you say now, Mr Ryder, that the painter Titian was more truly artistic than the painter Raphael?") I do know that people who really understand things don't like being asked questions by stupid people who cannot have the slightest understanding of the level on which the superior mind operates. So I don't do it.

There are hundreds of clips from the 1981 miniseries all over the internet. I have to say, it does look pretty good. I think it's like 13 hours long though. That would take me 3 or 4 months to watch the whole thing at least. Civilisation also had 13 episodes and it took me 6 or 7 months to get through that.

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