A blog for people hooked on books, and plays, and poems, and films, and songs, and ....

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Summer with Monika by Roger McGough

"i spent the summer with monika and monika spent the summer with me". It's a poem about passionate, can'tgetenough of it love, parananoid love, and settled and comfortable love. When I first read this poem I was a virgin and I knew about this love (from Austen, Salinger, Scott Fitzgerald) and that I'd know it when I saw it (and felt it, smelt it, tasted it). When I was in labour with my second child I argued with my husband that I wanted to call our baby Monika - so she could know the passion of Summer with Monika; luckily he was a boy.

It starts with that wonderful summer of love:
"for i locked a yellowdoor
and i threw away the key". It's a summer where they spend their time making love and being together. McGough turns their home into their world - "picnicked on the banks of the settee" - because, when you're in love you only need eachother. Day and night merge as the world is one long series of love making.

Then there's the paranoid, the madness, the jealousy. Is it pre-menstral tension? Lots of moon references. Actual madness or depression? Or just passion going in the wrong direction?

Then there's the final, normal love:
"we no longer eat our dinners holding hands
or neck in the backstalls of the television
the room nolonger a place for hideandseeking in
but a container that we use for eatandsleeping
in"

McGough makes it all seem so easy. So merseybeat. But it's dead clever and he's very seductive. And I love the "commonorgarden" "saturdaymorning" "ticktock blanketness" "issuchsicklysweetness" of it all. It's out of print - but find a copy and read it.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Saturday by Ian McEwan

I thought a fat book about just one day couldn’t sustain my interest – but it did. Saturday is situated in one time and one place. It’s a date between the fall of the twin towers and now (after three years of occupation in Iraq). Saturday is situated in a time when a million people thought a demo would stop a war. The place is London; it's Saturday 15 February 2003. It's a day in the life of upper middle-class, neurosurgeon Henry Perowne.

I like reading Ian McEwan, he makes me uncomfortable. I can’t settle down. I want Saturday to be about tranquillity (like weekday London, quiet and peaceful at the weekend) but it’s about violence. The book starts with a normally quiet and sleepy early morning punctuated with a burning plane in the sky. What should Henry do? Is it important enough to do anything? This is followed by the quiet streets disturbed by the distant demo, the gangsters in their flashy car, the squash game, surgery, the fight, the resurrection. Phew! I love the waiting, tasting the context, feeling the anticipation and then experiencing the rush and bursts of actions.

I didn’t like Henry Perowne – but I like books which challenge my romantic assumption that the protagonist should be my fantasy best friend. I don’t know why the squash game goes on for so long. Henry has two children, one of whom is a brilliant poet and the other an awesome jazz musician – that’s just too fantastical, and too Hamstead.

I enjoyed McEwan’s language and the page-turning suspense – a good story well told. But most of all I liked the challenge of Saturday, the discomfort of it, it made me question my middle-class self. Would I phone the police about a burning plane? Would I save a dying man who had harmed my family? Did I do anything to stop the Iraq war? The answer’s not brain surgery!