Newspaper Clippings On Chesil Beach

April 2, 2013 at 8:39 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , )

on_chesil_beachOr IN On Chesil Beach, rather…

Title: On Chesil Beach

Author: Ian McEwan

I love used books mostly because of the crap you find inside them.  Receipts, plane tickets, love letters, movie stubs, money – I’ve found it all.

In On Chesil Beach, a book published in 2007, I found a 1990 Wall Street Journal clipping of a book review written by Richard Locke.  It discussed McEwan’s most recent title at that time, Innocent, and compared him and other contemporary authors to Graham Greene.

It was the highlight of McEwan’s novel for me, the only other redeeming quality being McEwan’s excellent prose and the use of the word ‘wafted.’

I’ve read other work by McEwan, Amsterdam and the world famous Atonement, and was eager to find a McEwan title that broke the tie of love/hate for McEwan’s work.  I hated Amsterdam, I loved Atonement.  Where does McEwan fit in my life on the scale of authors I cherish or disregard?

Love this picture by a fellow book reviewer. Click to read her take.

Love this picture by a fellow book reviewer. Click to read her take.

Where Atonement is equally crass and sexually driven, at least with Atonement there was an epic tale to be told.  Amsterdam appalled me in some way, but I cannot recall why because I was so unmoved by the characters or the story, I cannot remember a bit of it.  It was boring and the people were none I could sympathize with.  On Chesil Beach was just depressing, and not in a beautiful way.  Instead, it left me feeling empty and thinking that those two (Florence and Edward) were complete idiots.  Atonement was devastating, but in a rich way… beware of how your actions affect others! Atonement screams.

As I told fellow book clubbers, I think Atonement is an atypical novel for McEwan.  It highlights all his strengths as a novelist and abandons a lot of the things I dislike about his other work.

I didn’t enjoy On Chesil Beach, but as usual McEwan’s prose was lovely.  I just didn’t like the story.  I was uncomfortable with two married people trying to figure out how to have sex on their honeymoon for 200 pages.  Amsterdam was equally annoying and somewhat dull.

Atonement is truly the equal opposite of the other two titles.  It has layers upon layers, I sympathize with characters.  Briony, though a sort of villain, is also a rich, multifaceted character.  It is a genius piece of work that can be discussed along side the genius of John Steinbeck’s East of Eden without ever wondering why it is sharing shelf space with such a prolific artist of words.

Briony WindowI can read Atonement over and over again and find new things to marvel over.  The first time I spent countless hours studying words and names… Briony, which means “climbing plant.”

Bryonies are occasionally grown in gardens, sometimes accidentally, sometimes deliberately so. Some species find use in herbal medicine. Generally however, these plants are poisonous, some highly so, and may be fatal if ingested. – Wikipedia

This time, a fellow HPB Humble Book Clubber pointed out the stunning use of windows, glass, and viewpoints of the characters.  As well as Triton being the statue in the fountain that supplied the initial setting for all the confusion… Triton who is a messenger of the sea, and the confusion being that of miscommunications and vivid imaginations.  There is a wealth of things to dive into when re-reading the book.

Even if On Chesil Beach offers similar literary gems to dig into, I have no desire to do so.  I feel as though Edward and Florence have annoyed me enough already in this lifetime.  I debate, even now as I type, whether to keep the book at all.  I may give it away, it is in near mint condition and other people enjoy things I do not.  But neurotic hoarder in me wants to create a shelf in my library of all books I find featuring the word ‘wafted’ and perch it there along with the rest.  It is a good thing I am married.  I am sure my husband will cock an eyebrow in that meaningful way that says ‘Don’t be crazy’ and I shall submit to the idea that it makes a better gift than tribute to my odd obsessions.

Chesil Beach

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Word Love

March 25, 2013 at 9:36 pm (The Whim) (, , , , , , , , )


Photograph by Maureen F, click to visit her Flickr page.

I have a strangely inappropriate love for certain words.  One of them is wafted.

wafted  past participle, past tense of waft


Pass or cause to pass easily or gently through or as if through the air: “the smell of stale fat wafted out from the restaurant”.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned my love for this word in this blog somewhere before, I know I briefly commented on it in my review of Kendall Grey’s Inhale.  But while reading Ian McEwan’s On Chesil Beach, I decided this topic deserved its very own post – not just a brief comment.

It struck me, much more strongly than ever before, how much I truly love this word as I read these lines:

“His napkin clung to his waist for a moment, hanging absurdly, like a loin cloth, and then wafted to the floor in slow motion.” – On Chesil Beach, pg. 33

Because there I was reading Ian McEwan’s book, completely uninterested and partly uncomfortable by the topic altogether, until that word hit the page.  With one word, my entire mindset turned around.  With one word, I thought: McEwan really is a lovely writer.

As soon as that thought struck me and I was able to identify where it came from, I recalled reading that word somewhere else earlier in the week.  I poked around in my reading material a bit and found that M.G. King used it in Fizz & Peppers.  Not only did she use it, I found that I had whimsically underlined it without giving it a single thought.  I often read with a pen or pencil in my hand.  You can often find doodles, or notes, or sporadic underlining in many of my books.  It is something that often happens without thought, and sometimes upon re-reading the title, without reason.  It seems as though, while reading Fizz & Peppers, I came across that word, and my pencil just reached out from my hand and licked it like it was a delicious bit of whip cream on top of a fine dessert.

“Even before he made it halfway down the hall he felt the hot, soggy air wafting through the house.” – Fizz & Peppers

Well, it doesn’t have to be in past tense, you see, I like any form of the word waft:

Definition of WAFT

intransitive verb
: to move or go lightly on or as if on a buoyant medium <heavenly aromas wafted from the kitchen>
transitive verb
: to cause to move or go lightly by or as if by the impulse of wind or waves
waft·er noun

Although these fonts aren’t doing the word justice, in all its forms I just love that word.  The deep smile it gives me is inevitable.  And I couldn’t tell you whether it starts with my lips and seeps down into my gut or if it is the reverse, but I cannot read the word waft without becoming inexplicably happy.

I would like to go on a hunt through my personal library and see where else I have made note of this wonderful word in my books.  That would take years, but it would be a worthy cause.  From now on, I’ll just remember to make note in my journals of where I have read it and who wrote it.

wafting thru

Click to visit book blog: Wafting Through the Bookshelf, adventures in bookwaft

Do you have any favorite words?  Another of mine is speakeasy, I like they way it feels when it is spoken aloud, but I have no deep love for the meaning.  Waft is unique for me in that I love every aspect of it, how it sounds, what it means, the elegance it gives a sentence when it used, the image I have in my mind when I read it… oh yes, but what is your favorite word? And why do you like it?

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HPB Humble Spring Book Club Picks!

December 14, 2012 at 6:42 pm (Events) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

HPB Humble Spring Book Club Picks!

January – A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg (cooking/memoir)
February – March by Geraldine Brooks (fiction/literature)
March – Lords of Finance by Liaquat Ahamed (business/economic history)
April – On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan (fiction/literature)

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