Sunday, September 20, 2009

A lateral move

"It was a small tortoise with Julia's initials set in diamonds in the living shell, and this slightly obscene object, now slipping impotently on the polished boards, now striding across the card-table, now lumbering over a rug, now withdrawn at a touch, now stretching its neck and swaying its withered, antediluvian head, became a memorable part of the evening, one of those needle-hooks of experience which catch the attention when larger matters are at stake, and remain in the mind when they are forgotten, so that years later it is a bit of gilding, or a certain smell, or the tone of a clock's striking which recalls one to a tragedy."
Disregarding the fact that this entire paragraph, from chapter six of Brideshead Revisited, is one sentence, it was this paragraph that caught in my mind and pulled out a certain thread of recognition. Something about the tone, the mixture of memory and poetry, reminds me forcibly of History Boys. History Boys in many ways talks about and skirts around memory and experience; there are layers of time, and you are always conscious that what is happening to the characters in the moment is something they will look back on later. Often you get the feeling that they will remember it in the way this paragraph describes, as something sensual and perhaps without the factual, seemingly important parts. Irwin, the character who most appears in two different times, sometimes remembers things from the earlier time in which most of the play takes place, and Hector in that time remembers a vague past. Posner and Dakin, students of Irwin and Hector in this time, are the ones most potently, because of their age, creating the experiences that you can tell will later be remembered in things like this, the turtle, the gilding, the clock's strike.

I mentioned before the memory and nostalgia I feel running all the way through Brideshead Revisited. The paragraph above is what I feel is a perfect example of this thread at its best. I hadn't quite realized that this is part of what I love about History Boys, and suddenly recognizing the feeling in Brideshead Revisited brought it all to the front and made me realize it. I think it was on this paragraph that the book clicked into place for me. I had to stop immediately and tell you so.

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