20 June 2019

Highlights from 'Black Dogs'

McEwan, Ian. Black Dogs. Anchor Books, 1992.

A personal background

May had not been an inspiring month, literary-speaking. Couldn't finish a single novel. I have this habit of buying new books and from, say, ten titles, I'd only commit to one or two. Then make an impractical purchase again, and so the cycle goes. This isn't unique to me, so thank you if you share the same burden.

There's also no need to mention that money isn't easy to come by. My shelf's filled with unopened paperbacks, giving me no reason to complain about a lack of reading material. More so, no reason to keep buying, but.

My frustration led me to a pile of unread Ian McEwan, bought sometime in 2007 for P20 each. He hasn't let me down so far. Regardless of our history, I proceeded with caution and plucked the slimmest volume, Black Dogs, in case I lose stamina.

I plan to make 2020 a year of re-reading. Go back to stories I enjoyed or at least remember enjoying. A piece of good writing offers — to borrow Clare Cavanagh's stunning phrase, because nothing else will do — unplumbable abundance.

Some underlined bits
The truth is we love each other, we've never stopped, we're obsessed. And we failed to do a thing with it. We couldn't make a life.... Whenever I'm complaining about some latest social breakdown in the newspapers, I have to remind myself—why should I expect millions of strangers with conflicting interests to get along when I couldn't make a simple society with the father of my children, the man I've loved and remained married to? (pp 29-30)

A crowd is a slow, stupid creature, far less intelligent than any one of its members. (p 65)

As they drank from their water bottles, he was struck by the recently concluded war not as a historical, geopolitical fact but as a multiplicity, a near infinity of private sorrows, as a boundless grief minutely subdivided without diminishment among individuals who covered the continent like dust [...] For the first time he sensed the scale of the catastrophe in terms of feeling— [...] What possible good could come of a Europe covered in this dust, these spores, when forgetting would be inhuman and dangerous, and remembering a constant torture? (p 140)

Surely this was what existence strained to be, and so rarely had the chance: to savor itself fully in the present, this moment in all its simplicity— (p 144)

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