Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Its syntax pure

The busker in the metro tunnels this morning was strumming out Satie's Gymnopédies, and it made the walk from the station to work feel like some misty confusion.

I finished Ian McEwan's Amsterdam last night. Very enjoyable. And funny. Especially the bits in the editorial offices.

"On this paper 'hopefully' is not a sentence adverb, nor will it ever be, specially in a leader for Godsakes. And none..." He trailed away for dramatic effect, while pretending to scan the piece. "'None' usually takes a singular verb. Can we get these two things generally understood?"

Vernon was aware of the approval round the table. This was the kind of thing the grammarians liked to hear. Together they would see the paper into the grave with its syntax pure.

I've never worked on a newspaper, but I know these battles well, and I'm no stranger to the struggle to balance editorial integrity with profit, which theme is central to one of the plots.

Both the main characters are fairly despicable, for different reasons, and they deserve what they get. So it seems McEwan is hit or miss with me, and Amsterdam's a hit.

(Though, if we're talking editorial, The Imperfectionists was a far more engrossing read.)

I received a copy of The Illumination, by Kevin Brockmeier, last week, and the review in Salon had me eager to read it next. Even though already it makes me sad. (Not in a maudlin way, in a good way. ["'What's good about sad?' It's happy, for deep people.'"] But it seems Brockmeier's world is a little less illuminated in this respect: Divorced young women without children but with decent jobs collect alimony. Really? Still? The dust jacket buckles a little because it got snowed on. Sometimes I care about these things, sometimes I don't.

I've spent much of my day thinking I may never write anything like a novel, because, after an evening, yesterday, of his pouting and my not being able to say anything for fear of saying the wrong thing, I know such a novel would be full of the wrong things, to be taken personally.

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