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My favorite book

Enveloped by the soft, vibrant roses and gently buffeted by the warm summer wind, I frolicked only within the chapped and yellowed pages of a book. Cupped by my chilled, bloodless hands, Brideshead Revisited, by twentieth-century author Evelyn Waugh, assumed the beautiful fragility exhibited by the eventually estranged characters Julia and Sebastian Flyte. The water lapped at tiled walls as I tipped my head backwards and allowed tangled strands of brown hair to penetrate the sacred pool. I longed to drink from the spurting fountain, but knew that carless tourists, clad in tennis-shoes, shorts, and fanny-packs, had corrupted its essence with their rusted pennies and crushed paper cups. Balboa Park will never compare to Lady Marchmain’s divinely decadent estate, but I admitted that the decidedly lush nature of my surroundings would suffice. I borrowed the scarred book from my closest friend, an autodidact with both an insatiable appetite for knowledge and a crippling inability to complete schoolwork. She advised me to delve within the gilded world slowly, savor the charms of Brideshead, and reflect upon the aesthetic qualities of the sumptuously written novel.

Before Brideshead Revisited (or B.B.R., as I like abbreviate the title of the era preceding my discovery), I possessed a voracious literary appetite and consumed books like a starved Grendel. However, I considered the completion of a book the ultimate fulfillment; half-way through the novel, I wished for the end, or, as I perceived it, the confirmation that I had, indeed, extracted valuable information. The time invested in a book only constituted a worthy endeavor if I eventually finished it; the anxiety of knowing that there existed an innumerable amount of worthwhile books in which I would never be able to partake often overwhelmed me. It created new sources of neuroticism, rather than soothing my already frazzled nerves. Books became a quantifiable commodity; though such a statement remains economically correct, it should not distort the image of a novel or non-fictional account as a masterpiece crafted by skilled artists and intended to promote enlightenment. Brideshead Revisited served as the catalyst for my decision to truly appreciate the select novels that I carefully and purposefully chose to read.

I allowed my hands to skim, feeling the grooves and crannies of Brideshead Revisited’s cracked cover. Fingering the thin, dry pages, I slowly opened the book. I first encountered the author’s note: “I am not I; thou are not he or she; they are not they” (Waugh). The words rolled under my tongue and flowed out of my mouth as I silently whispered. As I began, I was gradually exposed to Charles Ryders’ malleable and uncertain psyche, the lens through which the reader observes the societal and religious conventions common to the early twentieth century. I considered Brideshead Revisited my daily ration of liberation. Removed from the tensions of studying for tests, preparing for the SAT, and choosing potential colleges, my escape into Waugh’s alternate universe allowed me time to consider the various socio-cultural issues presented within the novel. My contemplation of familial relationships, Catholicism, and the perverting influence of extreme and unnecessary wealth was conducive to the cultivation of my philosophy regarding life. Charles Ryder’s infatuation with a mere façade of happiness encouraged me to truly examine causes of contentment, rather than commence a fruitless search for unachievable and melancholic glamour. My investment in one book, which included absolutely no monetary cost whatsoever, radically altered my approach to the written word; I now read ever so slowly, hoping that the scholarly book-gods will allow me an experience, like Brideshead Revisited, that will, until I transition to another classic novel, drastically improve my willingness to modify the manner in which I perceive the world and allow me to cultivate, within myself, a well-rounded yet curious spirit.





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