Ian McEwan: “Hand on the Shoulder”
My name is Serena Frome (rhymes with “plume”), and forty years ago, in my final year at Cambridge, I was recruited by the British security service. In the early spring of 1972, when exams were only weeks away, I found a new boyfriend, a historian called Jeremy Mott. He was of a certain old-fashioned type—lanky, large-nosed, with an out-sized Adam’s apple. He was unkempt, clever in an understated way, and extremely polite. I’d noticed quite a few of his sort around. They all seemed to have descended from a single family and to have come from private schools in the North of England where they were issued with the same clothes. These were the last men on earth still wearing Harris-tweed jackets with leather patches on the elbows and trim on the cuffs. I learned, though not from Jeremy, that he was expected to get a first and that he had already published an article in a scholarly journal of sixteenth-century studies.
- The first paragraph of Ian McEwan’s “Hand on the Shoulder,” featured in this week’s issue. To read the rest: http://nyr.kr/IjHBFH
Now I want to read the novel. Which is probably bound to disappoint, with a dash of sordid sexual malaise. But McEwan is one of the few writers who is on point, formally, all of the time. So perhaps it’s not too late for another Atonement-level masterpiece? All I want is to be entertained and sucked into a world of perfect composition. Is that too much to ask?
nothing better than “Schiele-esque”… or something.
If only everyone could be like Bill.
There were phrases of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony that still made Coe cry. He always thought it had to do with the circumstances of the composition itself. He imagined Beethoven deaf and soul-sick, his heart broken, scribbling furiously while Death stood in the doorway, clipping his nails.
Still, Coe thought, it might have been living in the country that was making him cry. It was killing him with its silence and loneliness - making everything ordinary, too beautiful to bear.
‘The Man with the Miniature Orchestra’ by Dave Algonquin.
Mad Men, Signal 30
new england. enough said.
Today, I saw an old man in slightly tattered clothing walk towards me very slowly on the street. He kept looking at me as I neared him, and I braced myself for creepiness/awkwardness/hostility.
Turns out, all he said was “hi” in the most innocuous tone ever.
What the fuck has this place done to me. There is no way I’m spending the rest of my life acting cold to people as a default because no one here actually gives a shit about anyone but themselves. But what’s the other option? Earthquakelandia or Safe Havens of the Morbidly Obese? Or, even better, “My Greatest Civil Liberty Is My Right to Shoot You In the Face” (sincerely, the undersigned deep south)?
I really wonder what’s worse.
Neko Case - Nothing to Remember
A wonderful song emerges from the Hunger Games soundtrack. Sadly (or is it ‘w/e, I have shame and am not ashamed to admit it”?), I have already seen the movie. Read all three books in one night over the summer and decided: this is sufficiently terrible. But hey, entertaining enough on screen?
I have somehow already watched five movies in the theater this year, a far cry from passing the theater every week last year and cursing never-ending midterms. A noticable improvement. Alternatively, does claiming this secure me in the realm of low expectations?