scribbles tagged ‘Ian McEwan’

cor anglais and french horns

Monday, November 15th, 2010 | tags: , , , , , , ,  |

The opening piece of the evening was Morrow from Gattaca (re-used as a ‘theme’ in the film Atonement). Mistaking the track for Departure, within minutes tears were streaming down my face.

wendy: I first fell in love with Nyman’s music in 1983 when I saw the Draughtsman contract

mumsie: I remember, you’ve been playing Nyman’s music to me ever since

As we talk I realise how each time I purchased a Michael Nyman album I would bring it to mum and dads then play it to mumsie, insisting that she listened. I remember her continuing to do the laundry, prepare dinner, vacuum the house, never seeming to take time out to focus on just listening.

Now, watching the Bournmouth Symphony Orchestra (BSO) perform pieces that  I’d only previously heard. I noticed new things; how the lead Violin spoke to the lead Viola in Trysting fields, how the voices of different instruments came from different places. Listneing to music in the car, the instruments seem to be disembodied, the have no place to come from.

After the tuba’s and french horns had made some floor rocking contributions to ‘a watery death’:

mumsie: he does like his brass

wendy: which one is the Cor anglais?

mumsie: next to the Oboe’s, the tall thing that loops to the floor and back

wendy: woodwind?

mumsie: yes

Mumsie was pleased to recognise all the pieces. The closing scheduled piece, Memorial, was Nyman’s tribute to the victims of the 1985 Heysel stadium disaster. They decided to add a lightweight encore before letting us loose on the watery night streets of Bristol. Mum was pleased, evidently the BSO don’t normally do encores.

Michael Nyman wrote ‘Departure

cor anglais and french horns
rate wendys scribble

what do you think of that »

On chesil beach

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010 | tags: , , ,  |

Not recommended as an audio book to accompany your commute. I found the soft porn way too distracting to manage listening and driving simultaneously. I found the book persistently, mildly, uncomfortable.

2 smiles: Ratings explained

Ian’s usual high standard writing was evident throughout. Detailed observation of social rules, class, relationships, like a modern Jane Austen. It was a joy to realise what he was doing with his writing and how he was achieving it. The places, settings, emphasised the storyline, the mood. Excellent.  Ian’s topic is also a familiar ground, English social taboos,  in this case knowledge of sex between two young adults in the early 1960’s.

Technical writing skills can take a good story to lift it to an exceptional experience. I found the story failed to intrigue, grip, or really move me to any place other than mild discomfort. I cringed and hoped the story would move somewhere unexpected, or a plausible extreme. I don’t read (listen to) a Novella to experience persistent, mild discomfort, and disappointment. The last pages of the book felt like a disappointment, the writing peaked to soon for my taste.

On chesil beach
rate wendys scribble

what do you think of that »

virgin member

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010 | tags: , , , , ,  |

My overdue trip to join Reading library. Overdue will not turn into a relationship theme

Palmers Park library Membership packI walked up to the desk opposite the door with the large sign saying membership. A young lady watched me as I picked up a leaflet describing how to join. easy, fill in this form provide evidence of address (Driving license) and normal signature (Debit card). As I reached for a pen from the pot on the far side of the desk the young lady walked over.  She picked and passed me a pen as she sat down good, I get to sit down now

wendy: can I take a photograph of that sign?

staff: Oh! No-one’s ever asked that before…Um…if there are no people in the picture

Excellent, the Saturday staff feel able to make decisions on unusual requests. The girl sweetly listened to me tell her about Kevin’s blog as I completed the form. Then she went into coorporation style ‘rote-retell’ mode as she desciribed the contents of the new member’s pack before handing it to me.

  • 2 hours of free internet access a day
  • The addresses and opening times of all the branches, including one in Palmers park that opens ’till 7pm 2 nights midweek
  • A free CD/DVD loan because of my new membership
  • charge-rates
  • Frequently Asking Questions
  • Special services (alas all the ‘coffee mornings’ are on weekdays, when I can’t join in)
  • Adult services (adult book groups. OH! who’d have guessed?! One group meets in the ‘Back of Beyond‘)
  • Children services (they have Pyjamma evenings in the library – wish I was a real child!)
  • Toy library

After this preliminary dance I was let-loose on the stock. …..ooOOOOooooo…. I left with an unabridged Audio book; Ian McEwan’s ‘On chesil beach’ read by the author.  It may not smell of book, but the commute to work this week will be a joy….

Goodies, lovely goodies…

virgin member
rate wendys scribble

7 bits of fabulous banter »

novel opening sentences

Tuesday, September 11th, 2007 | tags: , ,  |

The first sentence in a novel.  

An excellent writer alludes to the fundamental themes and tone of the book within a simple and provocative first sentence.      This opener from Ian McEwan’s Black Dogs  captured me:

Ever since I lost mine in a road accident when I was eight,   I have had my eye on other people’s parents.”


novel opening sentences
rate wendys scribble

2 bits of fabulous banter »

Saturday. Ian McEwan

Sunday, September 10th, 2006 | tags: , , , ,  |

Saturday gets  a self confessed McEwan addict rating of

4 smiles.   ratings explained

 Highly recommended for people who like Ian McEwan stories where  everday life is intertwined with the exceptional in a suspense drama,   or is it?   For a well thought out and written analysis read this  review by Mark Lawson in the Gaurdian.   Review excerpts:

  • Saturday catalogues the local only in order to focus on the global
  • By recording with such loving care the elements of one rich Englishman’s life, Saturday explores the question of to what extent it is possible to insulate yourself against the world’s concerns
  • One of the most oblique but also most serious contributions to the post-9/11, post-Iraq war literature, it succeeds in ridiculing on every page the view of its hero that fiction is useless to the modern world.
  • The most recurrent theme in McEwan’s 10 novels is the sudden ambush of the safe and smug.

We follow the protoganist,   a neuro-surgeon Henry Perowne, through 24 hours set in London, 2003, on the day of a major Anti-war (with Iraq) rally.   Through his recollections we succinctly cover the last 20  years  of significant family events as he prepares for a special evening.   Through conversations,   news broadcasts and the anti-war rally we learn about different perspectives towards Britians engagement in the Iraq war.   His job centres on diagnosing complex human physical disorders,   then fixing them,  saving lives.   Analogous to governments diagnosing world problems and attempting to fix them,   saving lives.    McEwan’s writing style is captivating.   In this single sentence he conveys so much about the   old people in a ‘home’:

They stir,   or seem to sway as he enters, as if gently buffeted by the air the door displaces

I read the first half of the book sporadically,  reverently, on a Saturday.     The first half focuses on detailed,   relevant,  scene setting with events.   The home,   the car,   the family,   the health activities,   the job,   the friends,   the colleagues, the rally, the news, the values.   The second half of the book was so gripping I couldn’t bear to put it down,   my evening stretched into the early hours of the morning.          


Ian McEwan addict confesses
Saturday. Ian McEwan
rate wendys scribble

1 wonderful musing »

of mice and maturing

Sunday, April 30th, 2006 | tags: , , , , , ,  |

1985 (Assume poetic licence  with the precision of dates and details.   The story has  changed with  fermentation in memory.   The gist of the story is consistent with the orginal experience.)

I   rented a room near ‘The Mermaid’ in a small  Sparkhill red-brick terraced house shared with four girls.   Bambi rented a room  in a Handsworth  red brick terraced house  shared with four boys.   Two bus rides, an hour, apart.   Neither house had a telephone.   We were poor.   We were young.

Bambi’s house smelt of rotting mice.   It was infested.  The neighbours houses were infested.   The whole area was infested.   Everyone lived with the mice.  Mice would dash for cover when you entered a room, switched on a light, moved suddenly.   The boys would play at trying to jump on, squash,  mice before they reached cover.   Several  squashed mice decorated the floor in the front room.   The floor was also decorated with chair-side piles of empty beer cans and chris-crossed with glittering slug trails.    A milk bottle containing a dead mouse sat on the fireplace mantle; gently warmed by the gas fire on colder days.   The mouse had climbed in voluntarily when the bottle lay on the floor then, unable to climb out,  starved to death.   The boys treated  the bottled mouse  as a trophy.   Some mice died more peacefully of old age under the floor boards.   Then rotted.   I’ll never forget the overwhelming stench of rotting mouse.   It’s integrally bound with first love.  It filled your lungs and scented your sweat during the deep breaths of love making.   It seems appropriate that I read Ian McEwan’s “First Love, Last Rites” in this house.  

Early on a brightly lit  summer evening I turned-up to meet  Bambi.   He wasn’t in.  In other homes I would make myself at home with a cup of Tea.   Not here. Concerns about household hygiene.   The mice-droppings on the kitchen work surfaces and stench were an effective deterrent to eating or drinking.   I picked a book from Bambi’s collection and  opened a window in a futile attempt to release the seemingly endless odour.   With my head by the open window I  started to read ‘the catcher in the rye.    My first American novel.   The sun gradually set.   Sodium pink, then yellow, street lights lit the pages.    The mice scuttled over the silence.   Lost in the story I forgot about the planned evening with Bambi.    Despite knowing  very little about the places,  symbols,  or lifestyle outlined in the book it felt powerfully relevant to  the loneliness of that night, madness of  youth,  and pains of new found adulthood.  

I finished the novel as Bambi arrived.

of mice and maturing
rate wendys scribble

what do you think of that »

Atonement. Ian McEwan. Review

Tuesday, August 30th, 2005 | tags: , , ,  |
Work out if the book would suit you from this brief review
For me the book contained  4 main strands woven tightly together into a book that I certainly wouldn’t describe as ‘ropey’          The strands were:

love story

This has all the power of McEwans well established ability to raise emotions,   cross social boundaries,   fill you with anticipation.   I couldn’t work out which scenes actually included sexual intercourse.    I found this uncertainty rather fun,   to  be left to infer,   guessing by descirptions of position,   demeanor, sounds  and feelings.      Keep this up


crime story

An unusual bent on a traditional fictional genre,   no detectives.   Just the witnesses and victims and the impact of the legal and social  crimes as time unfolds.   The character’s role in the crime was well laid out in the first part.   As with being unclear about the sexual intercourse,   I was also unclear about whether a legal crime occured.   Certainly moral crimes occurred.   I would rather have found out more about the immediate aftermath in the second part.   Instead    we skip to 3 years later.    I was left with some major questions left unanswered about    the roles played by some of the key players in the first part.    Adjust this.  


war story

Uh.   I got bored and started skim reading wondering how the peripheral characters introduced in this storyline related to either the Love story,   the crime story, or the story about stories.   Either I missed something or they didn’t.    This storyline seemed superfluous.   Well written,   but it just didn’t entertain or significantly move the plot forward for me.   Cut this.


story about stories (postmodern)

This was fabulous.   Stories about formal stories,   informal stories, truths misundertandings,   lealities,   moralities and wonderful variations on self-reference.   This strand lifted the book to worthiness of reading.   It’s strongest hold is in the first part and the last part.     I was left wanting more of an exploration in the last part.   The role of the legal process,   historical archives,   news media,  in defining a story could so easily have been explored in exciting and interesting ways.   Like Oliver, I wanted MORE!
Reviews from professionals are available on:



Wendy Wittery-cWitic

Atonement. Ian McEwan. Review
rate wendys scribble

what do you think of that »

Atonement. Ian McEwan. Words

Monday, August 29th, 2005 | tags: , ,  |

Finished the book,   from part 3 onwards I tended to skim-read and may have missed some juicey words.    Below are some explanations of words that struck me as having culturally specific or slightly obscure meanings:

  • Card (194): an odd or amusing person (OED)
  • Crumpet (p181): Oxford English Dictionary’s 2nd definition,    Women regarded as objects of sexual desire.
  • Gladestone Bag (p163): Named after the Welshman William E Gladstone who was Queen Victoria’s UK Prime Minister on four occassions.   The bag has a wire-hinged frame to open it and is much like a  classic ‘Carpet bag’ only  normally made of leather.  
  • Greatcoat  (p179):   a long heavy warm coat, worn especially by soldiers over their uniform.   The design in the UK is slightly different from the US greatcoats.   Ha Ha (p17):   A dry ditch or sunken fence which divided the formal garden from the landscaped park without interrupting the view. I’ve mainly seen them as boundaries between mansion houses and the surrounding fields used for agriculture.   Like a mini ‘moat’ with no water and a steep-side (wall) on the side where the animals should not climb-up.   An example picture is available at the bottom of this page:
  • Humber (p162):   a classic UK car.   See company history and examples on:
  • King Canute (p107): A potential anagram of ‘the word’ refered to in the book as an  “Old English King attempting to turn back the tides“.   He’s an early Christian King of  Danish origins.   The story is told to children in the UK as a means of conveying the dangers of   pride (one of the seven sins)   and unquestioning acceptance of praise.   The story crops up in Christian contexts,   Canute was made a Saint.   The Wikipedia entry makes him sound like the King of a Scandinavian Empire that included England:
  • Kissing Gate (p17):   A small gate swinging in a U or V-shaped enclosure, which allows only one person to pass through at a time.   Older versions  sometimes use gravity to close and has a passage way that is too slim for an animal to move through.   Why a ‘kissing gate’?    The myth is that a man out walking with his lady friend can pass through first and hold the gate shut – demanding a kiss before permitting his lady friend to pass through.   Example gate diagram on:
  • Metaled road (p86):   To make or mend (a road) with small, broken stones.   The broken stone used in macadamizing roads and ballasting railroads


Atonement. Ian McEwan. Words
rate wendys scribble

what do you think of that »

Amsterdam. Ian McEwan

Tuesday, August 9th, 2005 | tags: , , ,  |
The book won the 1998 Booker prize.
The book is a short,   intense and easily flowing read.   It follows  5 wealthy people,   a dead woman and her surviving husband,   the editor of a national broadsheet,  the govenrment foreign minister,   and a composer.  
You learn details of their daily lives and  values as the plot evolves around several distinct morale decision points that lead in an almost invisible, inevitable,  chain to the conclusion.
John Sutherland, of The Sunday  Times summed up my experience quite well with -“Never mind the width,   feel the quality”    I found it outstanding.   I am a little biaised.
Here’s a contemporary review published by the Guardian that includes some basic plot and character details:
Review excerpt
Ian McEwan is a damned good writer. [Will]  Self said that he read the novel in two hours, while also looking after children and doing a spot of bank business; I read it pretty quickly too, and I suggest that this is not only because of the book’s slightness, but because of the compulsive nature of McEwan’s prose: you just don’t want to stop reading it, even when he’s writing about musical composition, or the difficult characters and bad behaviour of ‘creative’ people. (‘These types – novelists were by far the worst – managed to convince friends and families that not only their working hours, but every nap and stroll, every fit of silence, depression and drunkenness bore the exculpatory ticket of high intent.’)
Wendy what-should-i-read-next?

Amsterdam. Ian McEwan
rate wendys scribble

what do you think of that »