Tuesday, March 31, 2015

On Chesil Beach..

This is how the entire course of life can be changed – by doing nothing. On Chesil beach he could have called out to Florence, he could have gone after her. He did not know, or would not have cared to know, that as she ran away from him, certain in her distress that she was about to lose him, she had never loved him more, or more hopelessly, and that the sound of his voice would have been a deliverance, and she would have turned back. Instead, he stood in cold and righteous silence in the summer’s dusk, watching her hurry along the shore, the sound of her difficult progress lost to the breaking of small waves, until she was blurred, receding against the immense straight road of shingle gleaming in the pallid light

- On Chesil Beach

This was my second McEwan. The first, Amsterdam (wonderfully enough not set in Amsterdam at all, much like Prague), I finished on the Eurostar on my way back to Paris from London on a late mid-summer Sunday night. I'd bought the book at an Oxfam on Saturday morning and devoured it between double-decker bus rides and the train rides back-and-forth to Cambridge.

After getting off the train at Gare du Nord, I fell into an American bar near Montmartre (on that back north-eastern side) where I chatted, over Brooklyn Lagers, with an American composer (from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan) who was in Paris to rehearse a dance troupe from Lyon for the performance of her orchestral pieces. And given that Amsterdam is one of the few books I've ever read featuring a composer, I gave it to her. We then discussed Kanye and she told me to listen to Beethoven's late string quartets (where he's deliberately breaking form with noise) and I jotted down the opus numbers. And then we both disappeared into our respective nights..

On Chesil Beach is beautifully distilled - superficially simpler than Amsterdam. And can be summarized, completely, in a few short paragraphs. But what's missing in that synopsis is his sentences. The care he takes in crafting the narrative. The physicality of it all. The subtle turning points. And yes - so much depends on so many little things.

Off to NYC this weekend. Dylan in Baltimore on the 11th. Rhiannon at the Lincoln on the 12th. A concert buddy for the latter would be greatly appreciated.

That, for now, is all.

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