Posted by: Lizzie Ross | September 25, 2012

Banned Books Week: Part 1

Finished reading Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited last week (but still working my way through the TV series). Why did I wait so long to read that book? Lovely. Poor Charles Ryder, though. His relationship with Sebastian was doomed, the one with Julia fizzled out (oh, Catholic guilt has a lot to answer for), and his affair with the army simply sank in the mire of military bureaucracy and the boredom of no actual battles.

I know, I know. The book is all about the decline of the English aristocracy between the two wars. There’s a lot of decline in much of Waugh’s writing. He’s a sort of anti-Wodehouse. Where Bertie is a harmless nitwit, saved by Jeeves’s intelligence and pride (no proper butler would allow his employer to marry someone like Florence Craye), Sebastian Flyte is l’enfant terrible grown a bit long in the tooth. And his best friend, Charles, is at first bemused and then helplessly dismayed at Sebastian’s slow descent.

I’ve loved Waugh since reading Handful of Dust in college, and when the TV series exploded in the 1980s I bought a copy of the book. It has sat on my shelf for 30 years, an intermittent reminder of a gap in my education. Now that gap is filled. I’ll read it again in a few years, but I’ll need to revisit Handful of Dust, Decline and Fall, and a few other faves beforehand.

But even more beforehand — James Joyce’s Ulysses. I read it in college, nearly 40 years ago. I’ve started it several times since then. Now I’ll give it another go, with a solemn vow to finish it this time.

PS: Why Brideshead has been banned: the homosexual characters, obviously. Anthony Blanche flames through his scenes (a bit overdone, Evelyn?), but Sebastian is fairly tame, and there are no gay sex scenes (no straight ones either, for that matter) — so what’s the problem? Ah well.

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