Saturday, April 7, 2018

Ian McEwan

I go through book stores, normally looking for things that very few people are interested in. I can do well at big used book sales, finding things that from my point of view are under-valued.

Living authors generally speaking are of little interest to me. But: I often feel that I should try. So I got a remaindered copy of Ian McEwan, Enduring Love. A bit odd: some rather dramatic events at the beginning, the writer showing some technique with shifts in perspective, etc. The introduction of a new one-sided obsessive love affair; the decline if not disintegration of a long-standing childless marriage."Relationships." Is it true that Jane Austen describes courtships, which can be fairly dramatic, much more than the minutiae of two married people together?

Anyway, there are some good moments. Just before the protagonist meets some children, at the beginning of a chapter. "It was with a touch of sadness that Clarissa [his wife] sometimes told me that I would have made a wonderful father." Examples for a paragraph--he has had some success with kids.

"For all that, there's an uneasiness I have to conceal when I meet a child. I see myself through that child's eyes, and remember how I regarded adults when I was small. They seemed a grey crew to me, too fond of sitting down, too keen on small talk, too accustomed to having nothing to look forward to.... when I was an energetic, self-important ten-year-old and found myself in a roomful of grown-ups, I felt guilty, and thought it only polite to conceal the fun I was having elsewhere."

The protagonist was once a "real" scientist, doing work in a lab, but for years he's been successful as a science "writer" or popularizer, increasingly concerned he's some kind of charlatan. He gets some work done as he goes through his personal crises: "I wrote a long and dull review of five books on consciousness. When I started out in science-writing the word was more or less proscribed in scientific discourse. It wasn't a subject. Now it was up there with black holes and Darwin, almost bigger than dinosaurs." For Christmas my son got me not one, but two books on consciousness.

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