Thus Evelyn Waugh begins Book Two of Brideshead Revisited. I had to read 216 pages to find the quote to head my review. I had to find the quote to write a review in this Age Of Twitter but, good as this quote is, I cannot do it justice in 140 characters nor 140 words. To savor its full flavor one must read the 216 pages to establish the context in which this sentence can merely begin a passage on Waugh’s theme and the narrator’s life. Charles Ryder as a much older man is revisiting the country manor Brideshead which his youthful friend, Sebastian Flyte, in their college days referred to as “where my family lives” and not as “home.” The novel is a flashback of nearly twenty years duration in which we re-live Charles’s turbulent love affairs with the family which in this book means so much more than sexual adventures (though they exist) but include love in its many different forms for a house, a garden, a family nanny ever aged yet present, the art and architecture of the place and even the family’s many-faceted though Catholic God.
Waugh’s writing does not compress well though I can readily imagine a modern editor demanding that he show rather than tell and spend far less time inside Charles’s head. For me, however, it is the very route to Brideshead that some would find so wordy and indirect that makes it all worthwhile. For one example consider Charles considering the
“. . . little spinning planets of personal relationship; there is probably a perfect metaphor for the process to be found in physics, from the way in which, I dimly apprehend, particles of energy group and regroup themselves in separate magnetic systems, a metaphor ready to hand for the man who can speak of these things with assurance; not for me, who can only say that England abounded in these small companies of intimate friends, so that, as in this case of Julia and myself, we could live in the same street in London, see at times , a few miles distant, the same rural horizon, could have a liking one for the other, a mild curiosity about the other’s fortunes, a regret, even, that we should be separated, and the knowledge that either of us had only to pick up the telephone and speak by the other’s pillow, enjoy the intimacies of the levee, coming in, as it were, with the morning orange juice and the sun, yet be restrained from doing so by the centripetal force of our own worlds, and the cold, interstellar space between them.”
To live and die by the quote, to compress the necessary superfluity of literature to 140 characters, one might say “We move in different orbits, Evelyn and I.”