1997, Jonathan Cape
I found this book (also a movie) in my office at Jo’s house. I’d call it a psychological thriller, but it’s not always that thrilling.
It is, however, fascinating to learn about Clérambault’s syndrome, the mental illness which takes center stage in the character of Jed Parry. The illness was first observed in females; a woman becomes convinced that a man of a higher social group is in love with her, despite lack of evidence. McEwan’s book explores a male version in Parry's fixation on protagonist Joe Rose, who tries to save his marriage endangered by this "homo-erotic obssession with religious overtones", as one reviewer called it, which threatens to destroy it.
Bruckner Symphony 3
Almost half a century ago I heard Bruckner's Symphony n° 3 at a concert in Hartford, Connecticut. The symphony dragged and droned on and on. I struggled to stay awake, to not slump in my seat. But then, suddenly, the slow, repetitive music transformed into a joyful sound; beautiful, heavenly, paradisical. This passage from McEwan’s book brought back the memory of that rare experience:
I remember I once went walking with my school in Switzerland in the summer holidays. One day we spent the whole morning climbing a boring rocky path. We all complained – it was so hot and pointless, but the teacher made us keep going. Just before lunch we arrived on to a high alpine meadow, a huge sunny expanse of flowers and grasses, with electric green mosses around the banks of a stream. It was a miraculous place. We were a noisy bunch of kids, but we suddenly went very quiet. Someone said in a whisper that it was like arriving in Paradise. It was a great moment in my life. I think when our difficulties are over, when you come here and we’re together, it will be like arriving on that meadow. No more rocky uphill! Peace, and time stretching out before us. (Jed Parry, ch. 16)
A reference to Bruckner later in the book couldn't be a coincidence, could it? :
From one of the downstairs apartments came a muffled symphonic climax, banal and overstated, Bruckner perhaps… (Joe Rose, ch. 20)
Too much was made in pop psychology, and too much expected, of talking things through. Conflicts, like living organisms, had a natural lifespan. The trick was to know when to let them die. At the wrong moment, words could act like so many fibrillating jolts. The creature could revive in pathogenic form, feverishly regenerated by an interesting new formulation, or by this or that morbidly “fresh look” at things. (ch. 17)
Might there be a genetic bases to religious belief, or was it merely refreshing to think so? If faith conferred a selective advantage, there were any number of possible means, and nothing could be proven. Suppose religion gave status, especially to its priest caste – plenty of social advantage in that. What if it bestowed strength in adversity, the power of consolation, the chance of surviving the disaster that might crush a godless man. Perhaps it gave believers passionate conviction, the brute strength of single-mindedness. (ch. 18)
This post may be like a Bruckner symphony minus the arrival in Paradise, but this is the end.