Last Posting about "Brideshead Revisted" I promise...
The Third Book
I don't really like the cad Charles Ryder has turned into by the third book. If there's one thing that lowers a charcter, or person for that matter, in my esteem it's when someone doesn't care about his children at all and cheats on his wife, which is what Charles does.
I don't think Evelyn Waugh ever really went to Mexico, (I can't say for certain, will have to look it up), but some of his desriptions of it to me seem kind of weird-- more like photo tableaus taken from National Georgraphic pictures than descriptions of what it really looks like and how the people are.
Still, I continued on until the end of the book. It's just one of those books you can't stop reading (or listening to Jeremy Irons read to you in audiobook form. Recently I also loved "Peter and Max" read by Wil Wheaton, but I digress. He really does a very good version of Frau Tottenkinder, surprisingly enough. I never supposed him capable of doing an excellent old German woman, based on his character in Star Trek the Next Generation! Right, digressing some more, on to Brideshead).
I also have to add, somewhat peevishly, that as a Canadian, with our large French population (most of whom are of Catholic background), the idea that Rex Muchum wouldn't know about Catholicism, especially since we later discovered he lived in Montreal, a Quebecois city, is a little unbelievable, and smacks of lacklustre research. This bit however wasn't much of a deal breaker for me.
I have to say I listened to the last third of "Brideshead" with growing unease and finally outright anger. Not that I couldn't see something disappointing and religiously related coming from the narrator's hints throughout the book, but part of me was hoping in vain, the event would not be stupid, at least. Books are usually so hard to end in a way that truly satisfies the reader. I understand that. Authors who can manage it, I take my hat off to you, because you are few and far between. I have to say though... that the end of the book...except for the intriguing parts of Alexander Flyte having his surreal dreams and talking to himself about the history of the family... was complete and utter bullshit.
I wish the book three part didn't exst at all, because I felt it contradicted the beauty of the first part and all that that part of the book seemed to communicate to me. I'm not exactly sure why, when writing about the love between Sebastian and Charles and their exciting first year together at Oxfordd, Waugh managed to keep me completely enchanted, as if under a spell, but he did. Sebastian, Antony Blanche and Cordelia came alive with extraordinary vibrancy for me. At this point the book had an openess, a playfulness and warmth of spirit towards the characters that grows colder and nastier and more snobbish as the novel goes on. This makes it even harder to buy at the end, Charles's change of heart towards faith and the truth of the miracle he witnesses at the end before Alexander dies. It just seems ridiculous and hard to swallow.
I absolutely detested the fate Waugh had mapped out for Sebastian and Cordelia and later on Julia. They all become like priests almost. Dry, (or drunk in Sebastian's case), celibate beings removed from the beauty of the world. It just seemed so untrue to their essential character, as appreciators of beauty and celebrators of life.
I felt like in the the third part of the novel all the characters become gross, stuffy hypocrites. Why does the romance between Charles and Sebastan read so beautifully, while the one between Charles and Julia has no personality or magic whatsoever? I don't find Julia a very intriguing character. All we're ever told about really is her beauty and her relationship with Rex. She doesn't seem to have an real desires (other than to get married) or intelligence. There is nothing really unusual or intriguing about her. Charles and Julia never actually even seem particularly happy together. They just become another bunch of boring middle-aged people skulking around behind their spouse's backs. And who in their right mind is sexually attracted to a "woman's magical sadness" the way Charles supposedly is. Why would that be sexually attractive in any way?
As soon as Sebastian becomes a boring alcoholic and leaves the stage, the book loses all its spark and vitality. I realy hated how Waugh turned Sebastian into this dull, tormented drunk and tried to pawn Sebastian's difficulties off on his guilt at having failed his mother by not being a good Catholic. Anyone can see that Sebastian's character is probably in torment because he is gay and that goes against his mother's ambitions for him and the teachings of his religion. That's why he doesn't want to grow up. However, the author seems desperately to avoid saying it. Also I suppose being gay would have been a criminal offense at the time, so maybe writing about it too explicitly might be too. The man upon whom the father of Sebastian, was based on in real life, was actually gay and was basically exiled from England because he was having an affair on his wife with another man, intriguingly enough. It was such an awful end for him that I actually spent a whole walk to through Greenwich composes a completely different, though possibly more ridiculous ending, where Sebastian forms a weird teddy-bear cult in Morroco based on the fact that Aloyious, his teddy is actually an alien robot, and Sebastian has to take him around everywhere in Oxford so he can record what the human experience is like. They go out into the desert and make a massive effigy of Aloyious and offer it hairbrushes on an alter as sacrifices. Sebastian, of course, as high priest of the ALoyious cult gets all the cute acocyltes and gay sex he could possibly desire. I think Cordelia was so offended by it all, that she had to make up that lame story about Sebastain going to the monastery.
Yes, my mind goes weird places, I know.
I also wish Hooper the army officer, wasn't so much a cardboard caricature of a middle class person. The whole Sebastian leaving the book and the book going downhill from there thing, reminds me much of "Romeo and Juliet" after Mercutio leaves. At that point the play, to me at least, just loses its spark and begins to sink under the weight of its own exasperately stupid plot contrivances, irritatingly stupid characters and lack of believability. Honestly, the poetry of the speech may be beautiful (especially Mercutio's Queen Mab bit), but when all is said and done Romeo still comes across as a bit of an impulsive idiot, even when played by Leonardo DiCaprio.