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Sunday, April 22, 2007

Weekend Reads...

This is a picture of what I did this past weekend. Well, that wasn't all I did. I cleaned the garage, did some laundry, etc. My wife took the pictures without telling me but was quick to suggest that I post them here. She particularly wanted everyone to see our house (well, the back of it). Also this weekend, I finished Ian McEwan's "Amsterdam," and it was as good in the end as it was slow starting out. I did have some difficulties when I began "Amsterdam" but the story really took off. McEwan combines four major characters whose major outcomes are decided by two sort of minor characters. As I wrote earlier, the major characters all share the fact that at one point or another they had been Molly Lane's lovers. (The story begins at Molly's funeral). George Lane happens to be one of the minor characters. He is married to Molly throughout her illness and eventual death. Vernon Halliday and Clive Linley, along with Julian Garmony had all been Molly's lovers. Let us begin with Vernon. Vernon is the chief editor of "The Judge," a struggling newspaper in London. He comes across some information on Julian Garmony (whom he despises), and some photographs of Garmony in drag (Garmony is foreign minister and running for Prime Minister). The pictures were taken at the time when Garmony and Molly were lovers. In a true genius of a twist, it is George Lane who offers the photographs of Garmony to Vernon for publication on "The Judge" in order to discredit Garmony's run for Prime Minister before it actually begins. The strategy of ruining Garmony backfires on Vernon and he ends up losing his job. Clive Linley's main obsession in the story is the composition of the "Millennium Symphony." He is one of Britain's leading composers and this piece seems to mark the point in his career as to how will he be remembered. Both Vernon and Clive made a pact with each other that in the case of severe illness--just as Molly had died--they would take each other out.
Ian McEwan must have some musical training, especially in composition. His passages on how Clive struggles with the composition of the "Millennium Symphony" are solidly credible and as fine a piece of writing on music as I have ever read. He does so with the basis of Clive's intense struggle after the death of Molly and his own introspective torture along the way. The end (which I am not going to give out here) is a wonderful mix of tragedy and resolution, masterfully done in a fantastic use of language--simply precise and not a word wasted. I highly recommend this novel. It was on my pile for a long time. I started reading the day I bought it but the beginning, like I said, was slow going and strange in setting, so I stopped. I am glad I picked it up again.

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6 Comments:

At 2:04 PM, Blogger Lee said...

I'm very partial McEwan and think him one of the best stylists in the language - you need to read his latest, On Chesil Beach - but it is precisely the ending of Amsterdam which disturbs me. Despite its black comedy, it's too pat - too obviously contrived.

 
At 3:57 PM, Blogger Bookgirl said...

Looks like the perfect way to enjoy the weekend (well, save for all the chores -hee). I don't know how I feel about Ian McEwan. I didn't care for Atonement too much. I read Saturday last year and while at first I didn't like it, it sort of grew on me. Both books made me think a lot though so obviously something is working right. I would certainly give another of his books a try though.

 
At 9:19 PM, Blogger Ex Libris said...

I've read two of McEwan's books - Atonement and Saturday - and loved them both. I have Amsterdam on my shelf but haven't read it. Glad to hear it is worthwhile.

 
At 9:46 PM, Blogger Stefanie said...

Looks and sounds like you had a nice weekend!

 
At 6:39 AM, Blogger suzanabrams said...

You must tell your wife, the picture looks swell, JCR. And all that fabulous sunshine!
Happy Reading!
I love the way you engage your story plots (of the moment) with real life happenings. :-)
Of course, you must write your thoughts on religion in whatever way you like. Just that I may choose not to comment on those posts if I find them discomforting to me personality.
In that way, we both preserve our personal space, I think. :-)

 
At 9:45 AM, Blogger Orange Blossom Goddess (aka Heather) said...

A chair, a green lawn, a book and a perfect little house - the perfect Saturday afternoon!!

 

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