Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Brideshead Revisited Reunion -My Thoughts

My ancestors, 'between the wars' - on the steps of 72 Sherbrooke West (Montreal) in, say, 1929. My mom at bottom. In my story, Flo in the City, about a girl coming of age in the 1910 era, based on the letters of http://www.tighsolas.ca/, I have Edith Nicholson staying here in 1909, teaching my Aunt Alice English.Come to think of it, I will have Edith compare this four storey greystone to Tighsolas, a brick encased Queen Anne style. Fun.

I'm sitting here in my living room at 7 am staring at my husband's big screen TV with the dvd's lined up underneath and I can clearly see Brideshead Revisited, since it's in a fatter case than the others. That mini series is long. I watched it again recently, all, what is it? 11 hours in a row.

This week, BBC Radio Four's Reunion Program has a group interview with the main cast - and I listened, of course. Watching Brideshead was one of the most moving 'cinematical' events in my life, although I've only watched it once or twice since the original viewing. (Not like the Colin Firth Pride and Prejudice, which I watch at least yearly and often more than that when winters are long and I am depressed.) But still, I love it.

I first saw Brideshead Revisited in 1982, I believe, when it played in Canada. I was working as a copywriter at a radio station (a burn out neurotic kind of job) and I was living at my mother's (not the happiest arrangement.) So I was sitting in my bed, which was the couch in the living room, reading, I clearly remember, Iris Murdoch's The Sea the Sea and enjoying it immensely. (Reading must have been a welcome diversion from writing adverts for Greek restaurants. "Step into the sunshine at the Caverna Grecque...whatever.." Then I stumbled on the first episode of Brideshead and was enraptured. Blown away. (I don't recall whether I had read the novel, although I had read Scoop and a few other books by Waugh.) Anyway, I remember waxing ecstatic about the show at work the next day.

Then, a few weeks later, I took the train to Kingston to visit a friend who was a graduate student at Queen's in the English Department. I found her new office, but she wasn't there. A young man, thin, blond, a fellow grad student named Rupert, was seated at his desk so I sat at hers and noticed that a copy of Brideshead Revisited was lying open on the desk. So I told the young man, "Brideshead Revisited was the best thing I'd ever seen on TV." As it happens, this guy was a Rhodes Scholar from Oxford and he had been an extra in the bar scene at Oxford. (Still is, from what I see :)

To this day, Brideshead is one of my favorite books, and the first chapter of Brideshead my favorite chapter of any book. It's the beautiful prose. (Although I come from Roman Catholics. My grandmother in the picture above, being French Canadian, was a devout Catholic who would sprinkle holy water on her kids when they were fighting. That house, apparently, was always filled with priests, and my aunt wanted to become a nun.) My other favorite first chapter is in Dead Souls by Gogol. I also like the chapter with Queehog (or whatever) in Moby Dick.

Anyway, I write this blog as I work on the second draft of the first chapter of Flo in the City, a middle school novel about Canada in 1910, and about women and their outsized dreams and genuine prospects in life. I have completed two installments, (a couple of blogs back and, today, I'll try to work on another.)

This novel is taking a long time, but then Brideshead Revisited took two years to produce, it was mentioned on the BBC Four Program!

My next novel, Milk and Water, will be set in 'between the wars'1927 and be about my grandfather Jules Crepeau, who was Director of City Services of Montreal and my husband's grandfather, Thomas G. Wells, President of Laurentian Spring Water. It will be a 'two solitudes' style political thriller with a social welfare theme, and center on a typhoid epidemic, a bit like Musee Eden, but based on two real families. Aren't I ambitious? (It will be fun to compare my uber zaftig French Canadian grandmother, the daughter of a master butcher, to my husband's very tall, pencil thin southern belle of a grandmother, who was General Douglas MacArthur's first cousin, from Norfolk Virginia. Their genes have commingled in my sons.