Quote for the commonplace book 002

“Julia was wrong; it wasn’t not having a car that had unmanned
him. It was the money. Real men had to earn a hard crust. They had to
labor at the coal face, both real and metaphorical. They didn’t spend
their days filling up their iPods with sad country songs and feeding
apples to French donkeys.”

 What’s nice about this quote from Kate Atkinson’s One Good Turn
is that she nicely inverts traditional definitions of masculinity as
outward-looking and action-oriented. Clearly, the protagonist
(Jackson) is concerned about masculinity, but doesn’t the author make
it seem as if by obsessing about it as he mopes around Edinburgh he’s
admitting that he doesn’t really have a clue about what makes a man,
except for the single datum that whatever it is, it’s not what he’s

 When I read a quote like this, uttered by a protagonist who is
spending the first few chapters of the book mulling over his personal
history while his artsy actor girlfriend rehearses her show, I begin
to suspect that the book will entail the protagonist’s discovery of
new azimuths on which he may express his masculinity or that he will
move on to discovering some other kind of virtue, like a different
lodestar. Sadly, I’m not sure the book is really moving in that
direction, leaving the promise of this quote suspended, like a fresh
set of washed linens on the line outside an abandoned house in the

4 thoughts on “Quote for the commonplace book 002

  1. aww, French donkeys! re. fiction, I’m gonna assume you’ve read Cloud Atlas (by…. I forget) that came out four/five years ago? Rich will probably join me in recommending it, he read parts of it aloud to me. I just found a copy in my house so I’ll actually be reading the whole thing now!

  2. I despised <i>Cloud Atlas</i>, and surprisingly for a book I read maybe eight or nine years ago, my feelings about it remain fresh. The science-fiction parts are carelessly written, and the contemporary parts are lackluster. I suggest using the copy you found for lining birdcages.

  3. yeah, I noticed a little bit of the sloppiness… but like I said, I read fast, & it’s hard for me to get un-stuck from something once in the middle of it. more recently read & enjoyed fiction: kazuo ishiguro (never let you go, an artist of the floating world), cesare pavese (the moon and the bonfires), philip roth (american pastoral), michel houellebecq (platform)? that probably takes me back to last year, I’m not that voracious of a fiction reader…dan just bought out the used bookstore’s supply of d.h. lawrence and john fowles, maybe he will comment on here with thoughts…do you read comics?

  4. Dan? Your brother? I think he is too busy Acting to make smarty-pants comments on relatives’ blogs. I’ve read Ishiguro’s <i>Remains of the Day</i>, and Roth’s <i>Portnoy’s Complaint</i>, of course, and thought about reading something by Houllebecq, but was turned off by his reported misanthropism.As far as getting unstuck from a book, I’ve learned in the last couple years that there are always plenty more books to read and that there’s no sense continuing with one if you don’t like it much. Especially here in the secret city with the piles and piles of mediocre books available. Why should I waste my time <i>finishing</i> something I could have lived without starting? In the past week I have started and not finished at least three books. To use one of my favorite expressions, <i>¡Basta ya!<i> Enough already!

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