Not Interested in Global Warming

Michael Beard, aging Nobel laureate and wholesale curmudgeon, was initially not very interested in the issue of global warming. Before he realized there was opportunity at hand, here’s what he thought of it:

There was an Old Testament ring to the forewarnings, an air of plague-of-boils and deluge-0f-frogs, that suggested a deep and constant inclination, enacted over the centuries, to believe that one was always living at the end of days, that one’s own demise was urgently bound up with the end of the world and therefore made more sense, or was just a little less irrelevant. The end of the world was never pitched in the present, where it could be seen for the fantasy it was, but just around the corner, and when it did not happen, a new issue, a new date, would soon emerge. The old world purified by incendiary violence, washed clean by the blood of the unsaved–that was how it had been for Christian millennial sects: death to the unbelievers! And for Soviet Communitist: death to the kulaks! And for Nazis and their thousand-year fantasy: death to the Jews! And then the truly democratic contemporary equivalent, an all-out nuclear war: death to everyone! When that did not happen, and after the Soviet empire had been devoured by its internal contradictions, and in the absence of any other overwhelming concern beyond boring, intransigent global poverty, the apocalyptic tendency had conjured yet another beast.

From Solar, by Ian McEwan (published 2010).

Published in: on November 27, 2012 at 10:54 pm  Comments (1)  

The Last Word on Organization

Michael Beard, aging Nobel laureate and wholesale curmudgeon, has always been a slob. Partially domesticated in his early 60s, he reflects back on his inability to get organized.

And now that he had entered upon the final active stages of his life, he was beginning to understand that, barring accidents, life did not change. He had been deluded. He had always assumed that a time would come in adulthood, a kind of plateau, when he would have learned all the tricks of managing, of simply being. All mail and e-mails answered, all papers in order, books alphabetically on the shelves, clothes and shoes in good repair in the wardrobes, and all his stuff where he could find it, with the past, including its letters and photographs, sorted into boxes and files, the private life settled and serene, accommodation and finances likewise. In all these years this settlement, the calm plateau, had never appeared, and yet he had continued to assume, without reflecting on the matter, that it was just around the next turn, when he would exert himself and reach it, that moment when his life became clear and his mind free, when his grown-up existence could properly begin. [Then] he thought he saw it for the first time: on the day he died he would be wearing unmatching socks, there would be unanswered e-mails, and in the hovel he called home there would still be shirts missing cuff buttons, a malfunctioning light in the hall, and unpaid bills, uncleared attics, dead flies, friends waiting for a reply, and lovers he had not owned up to. Oblivion, the last word in organization, would be his only consolation.

From Solar, by Ian McEwan (published 2010).

Published in: on September 22, 2012 at 12:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

Good to be Back in England

Michael Beard, aging Nobel laureate and wholesale curmudgeon, arrives at Heathrow after spending some time in Berlin:

He had reached the place where the amorphous overlapping ten queues narrowed down to three in order to line up for the immigration desks. And here he came, a gaunt parchment-faced fellow in a loden coat (Beard had always despised the style) sliding in from the left, trying to use his height to squirm ahead, angling his oversized briefcase at knee height to use as a wedge. Abruptly, driven by shameless rectitude, Beard stepped forward to deny the man space and felt the briefcase bang against his knee. At that moment Beard turned and sought out the man’s gaze and said politely, though his heart beat a little harder, “Terribly sorry.”

A rebuke poorly disguised as an apology, pretending manners to a man he would rather at that moment kill. It was good to be back in England.

From Solar, by Ian McEwan (published 2010).

Published in: on September 22, 2012 at 11:26 am  Leave a Comment