An update on my garage (and my mental health)

Here I pondered what to do with myself after giving up on the American experiment.  Some updates:

  • My garage is much cleaner, thanks for asking.  Although not exactly, you know, clean.
  • I haven’t read A Theory of Justice.  But it’s on my Amazon wish list (hint hint)!  Also, it was mentioned in a good book I read about philosophers of the Enlightenment called The Dream of Enlightenment.
  • Following my brother’s suggestion, I have listened to Schoenberg’s orchestration of the Brahms piano quartet.  It was great.  Thanks, Stan!  Thanks, Amazon Prime!  Thanks, Brahms and Schoenberg!
  • I’ve speeded up my fiction writing.  I’m up to about 40,000 words of my first draft.  Theoretically, that should be about halfway through.  Unfortunately, I seem to have about a dozen point of view characters, and things keep getting more complicated.  Occupational hazard.
  • I haven’t read more Shakespeare.  On the other hand, I have listened to Ian McEwan’s Nutshell.  I’m generally conflicted about McEwan, but boy is this novel great.  It’s a modern retelling of the Hamlet story; in this case, Hamlet is the narrator, and he happens a fetus overhearing a plot between his mother (Trudy) and uncle (Claude) to murder his father.  It’s ridiculously well written, even if McEwan’s characterization of a third-trimester fetus isn’t always, um, plausible.

Is my mood any better?  Actually, no, despite the state of my garage.  Here is Charles Blow in the Times, summing things up pretty well:

We are not in an ordinary postelection period of national unity and rapprochement. We are facing the potential abrogation of fundamental American ideals. We stand at the precipice, staring into an abyss that grows darker by the day.

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Any Ian McEwan fans out there?

Ian McEwan is a superb writer, and his subject matter is the sort of thing I’m attracted to: murder, science, espionage, literature.  I’ve read most of his novels, and each one of them leaves me feeling dissatisfied for one reason or another.  The latest is called Sweet Tooth (bad title), which is kinda sorta an espionage novel set in the England of the 1970s.  I raced through it, but I was thoroughly annoyed by the end.  Here’s why:

  • Despite being set in England’s MI5 and filled with espionage types, the book is really light on plot.  Not much actually happens.
  • In reality, the focus turns out to be on a fairly uninteresting love triangle among three not very sympathetic people.
  • The novel ends with a post-modern twist.  (McEwan did something similar in Atonement.)  Time was I was very much in favor of post-modern twists.  My tastes have apparently changed, or maybe McEwan just didn’t pull this one off.  In this case, it just made me want to toss the completed book against the nearest wall.

The novel got lots of rave reviews from critics, but on Amazon it has a relatively modest 3.5 rating (by contrast, my novel Senator has, ahem, a 4.3 rating and Dover Beach a 4.1). Lots of people seem to share my reservations.

What I liked about the novel was its wonderfully detailed depiction of England in the 1970s. On the other hand, the couple of times McEwan wrote about something I’m familiar with, he got it wrong.  (No one “takes a legal degree from Harvard” — at least, not back then.)  Kinda shakes your confidence.