The Secret Queerstory: Giorgi’s “The Secret History” Reflections Masterpost Part 2/2
Hello readers! This is the second half of a two-parter where I talk about The Secret History. If you’ve never read The Secret History, you should go back here to The Secret History 101. This is The Secret History 102, where we get into Advanced Fandom Studies.
The collection of observations and ramblings below are based on a pre-existing mania for this book, so if you haven’t read The Secret History, you probably won’t get my enthusiasm—though you will get a bunch of spoilers. You have been warned.
So the first thing I notice on this queereread (no?) is that Bunny basically admits to being gay right at the beginning of the book. When he takes Richard on a date out to lunch on a date at a fancy restaurant, he remarks about their gay waiter:
“[Every gay person] I have ever known has been obsessed with food. I wonder, why is that? Something psychological?” — Bunny, right before eating lunch for five hours straight
We find out over the course of the book that Bunny is The Food Friend™, who not only takes half-cooked lamb chops out of Charles’s oven because he can’t wait to eat them any longer, but also steals a cheesecake out of the fridge of Richard’s dorm, despite a note on it asking people to please not steal it because the owner is on financial aid.
Virtually whenever we get a description of what Bunny’s doing in a scene, he’s eating something, and if not he’s trying to find something to eat or griping about the fact that there isn’t anything to eat.
It’s no surprise that Bunny says things like this about gay people without realizing he fits the description perfectly. After all:
“I once heard him explaining vigorously and quite un-selfconsciously to Marion what he thought ought to be done to people who stole food from house refrigerators.” — Richard, about a human who stole a full cheesecake out of a dorm refrigerator
Congratulations, Bunny. You played yourself.
Moments after making his comment about the waiter, Bunny leads Richard in ordering so much food that it’s starting to get dark outside by the time they’re done eating it (p. 58), even though they met for lunch at 1:00 (p. 43). According to timeanddate.com, in mid-September the sun sets in Vermont just before 7:00, meaning that even if we take a generous view and take Richard to mean that the light was only just starting to fade when he and Bunny stopped eating, say 6ish, that still puts their lunch at around five hours in length.
While we’re on the subject of cuniculus molestus, I want to consider the term paper Bunny writes at the end of Richard’s first semester at Hampden. To refresh: Bunny has to write a 25 page paper on John Donne, and, using his book Men of Thought and Deed, ends up relating Donne to Izak Walton, convincing himself “in some dim corridor of his mind” (p. 107) that the two men were best friends (when Richard doesn't think they ever met) and founded the metahemeralist school of art together (which Richard is not sure exists).
So first off: I web-searched metahemeralism, and turned up only sites quoting The Secret History. Second:
“He had started showing up in my room about two or three in the morning…his tie askew and his eyes wild and rolling. He would…pace back and forth for a while without taking off his coat…stop dead in his tracks and say, with a desperate look in his eye: ‘Metahemeralism. Tell me about it. Everything you know.’” (p. 108)
So he wakes Richard up at two in the morning to talk to him about this paper, which is extra enough, but then Bunny doesn't actually let Richard talk! He just starts monologuing on his own while Richard listens:
“…And so it would go, for sometimes half an hour or more, with Bunny raving about fishing, and sonnets, and heaven knew what, until in the middle of his monologue he would be struck by a brilliant thought and bluster off as suddenly as he had descended.” (108)
And then when he finishes this paper, it’s triple spaced. Henry describes it as looking like a menu. The paper barely mentions John Donne at all.
“I don't want to drag him into this.” — Bunny, on why he didn't write more about John Donne in his paper on John Donne
Moving on from Bunny: so now I have a pretty big revelation about Charles’s whole tailspin out of control towards the end of the book:
“Charles had a bloody bite-mark on his arm that he had no idea how he'd got, but it wasn’t a human bite. Too big. And strange puncture marks instead of teeth.” (p. 168)
Dang. That definitely didn't come from the hunter they killed. But if not the hunter, then who—
“There was a fifth person with us for part of the time…You know what the Greeks called Dionysus…The Many Formed One. Sometimes it was a man, sometimes it was a woman. And sometimes it was something else.” (p. 359)
During the ritual, Charles was bitten by Dionysus. If Dionysus works by anything remotely resembling vampire and werewolf rules, that means OF COURSE Charles would end up acting weird afterward! Richard doesn’t know Charles very well pre-ritual, so we don’t get a good sample of his behavior before the bite, but the fact that after being bitten Charles starts drinking particularly heavily (even for the Murder Clique) is pretty fitting for someone who’s been afflicted by the party god.
Next, I want to talk about how many people want to get into Henry Winter’s pants. He beats Charles. Charles has Richard and Francis attracted to him, so that’s two people. (I don’t count Camilla, because she clearly wasn’t into her relationship with Charles during the events of The Secret History, and while we know she loves Charles like a brother, we don’t have any proof she ever really was into him romantically.)
Henry’s admirers are: Camilla “I love Henry” Macauley, Richard “I loved him too” Papen, probably Bunny, and potentially Julian. Whoever told Charles he’s the prettiest one in the group needs to publish a correction with an apology.
Why probably Bunny?
I proved earlier that Bunny has repressed homosexuality going on, so there’s that. Second, is that after the ritual Bunny acts much more passive-aggressive and resentful towards Henry more than any of the other clique members—while at the same time becoming much more clingy and possessive of him. This is the point at which Bunny convinces Henry to go on a trip alone with him to Italy, aka Romance Central.
All this is just circumstantial evidence, but it’s certainly enough for my gay ass.
Why potentially Julian?
“I loved him more than anyone in the world.” (p. 519) —Henry Winter, about Julian, while in a relationship with Camilla
After all, we know that Henry and Julian hold hands, and Henry even kisses Julian’s cheek every now and then (p. 71). We also know that the ancient Greeks were fans of older men educating younger men, and not just about Homer. We also also know that Henry is the only member of the group to have visited Julian’s house. Why??? For sex??? I think so!!!
“How can I possibly make the Dean of Studies understand that there is a divinity in our midst?” (p. 317) — Henry Winter, about Julian, a few months after he hung out with Dionysus, a real divinity
BTW!!! We know that Henry has taken nineteen classes with Julian—a number that shocks Richard. If we assume four classes a semester is the norm at Hampden, and since Henry being 21 most likely means he is a junior at the time of The Secret History, that means out of 24 classes total he has taken so far, only 5 of them have not been with Julian.
To wrap up, I want to briefly bring up Henry’s Lost in Translation moment with Camilla at the end, because OH MY GOD MY BOYFRIEND IS SO DRAMATIC. And you know whatever he told her was in Greek, because obviously. I bet Richard looks off into the distance all the time wondering what it was.
WAIT ONE MORE THING: When they kill Bunny, he asks them what they’re doing in the woods and Henry says “Why, looking for new ferns” (p. 3), and then later on Richard sees Henry has PLANTED THE FERNS IN HIS BACKYARD LIKE A MURDER SOUVENIR (p. 430)
Also the fact that Henry didn’t know about the moon landing (p. 85) but did know that the Persians were master poisoners (p. 234).
That is all
As I put The Secret History back on my shelf, and consign “The Secret ‘The Secret History’ History” once more to the deepest reaches of my Google drive, and as I leave Donne and Walton on the shores of Metahemeralism, I wave a fond farewell to those famous chums of yore. Goodbye, Richard, Henry, Charles, Camilla, Bunny, and Francis. Your colors are so bright, they break my heart every time.