Brideshead Revisited revisited by a reader on his ninth go round:
It’s easy for the youthful reader to miss some critical facts about Charles Ryder’s romps with Sebastian Flyte. I, for one, completely overlooked the homoerotic subtext — which surely would have been obvious to any British man who’d been to a public school. Robert Graves, in Goodbye to All That, and C. S. Lewis in Surprised By Joy, both comment on that peculiarly English institution that Graves called “artificial homosexuality.” (It’s unclear whether we’re meant to think that Charles and Sebastian actually committed this sin against nature; but their “romantic friendship” was not far removed from the intraschool “love affairs,” often unconsummated, that Graves and others record.) Having settled on Waugh as an upright Catholic author, I steadfastly overlooked any hints he dropped in the text — although when my father, a sturdy Slavic mailman, saw me watching the BBC series, he demanded to know, “Why are you watching a show with a bunch of pansies?” I answered with an ignorant, knowing sigh, “Dad, they aren’t queer. They’re simply English.”
Just as well. It would have ruined the book for me.
More importantly, as I read the book for the ninth time, now deeply settled into middle age, I notice that the happy times Charles and Sebastian spend tippling champagne and munching strawberries last only about a year…