I finished reading Saturday by Ian McEwan, and it’s a great book. I don’t mean that in the “I had a great time” at the end of an OK date way, but in the “this will be taught in universities and also read for pleasure” kind of way. It’s not about 9/11, but it’s the first book I’ve read that captures its impact on people who weren’t directly affected, focusing on one day in the life of one neurosurgeon in England, about 18 months after he was forced to look at the world in a different way. It’s not just intelligent and profound, it’s an enjoyable read, too. But I couldn’t say it has a lot of humour, and I next started on The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, an even more humourless book.
That one is about a doctor in 1960s Kentucky who delivers his own twins during a winter storm. When he realizes the girl has Down’s syndrome, he gives her to his nurse to be delivered to an institution. He tells his wife the baby died. The nurse, however, ends up raising the girl herself.
It was good, another character study and page-turner, and beautifully written for the most part, but the pages were turned more by curiousity of when the central secret of the book would be revealed than really being captivated by the characters.
After its sombreness, I went for a lighter read next. So the one I’m reading right now is called The Big Happy by Scott Mebus. It’s about a former TV producer who decides to quit his unfulfilling job to pursue “the big happy” – so he writes a novella and works as a low-rent DJ to pay the bills until his writing career takes off.
I’m not far into it, and it’s an entertaining but not exceptional book so far, but I might be a little in love with its fictional narrator, just for this one exchange. The narrator, David, is meeting his best friend’s fiance, a guy he instantly dislikes and nicknames Rat Boy but tries to have a conversation with for his friend’s sake.
[Rat Boy:] “I have to tell you, you’re all nothing like I thought you’d be.”
[David:] “What’s she told you? She lies! Anyway, I never would have gone near that girl if I’d known she was Amish.”
Josh seemed confused at the joke.
“Annie never mentioned an Amish girl. Was she out on rumspringa? If so, I wouldn’t worry. She was trying to taste secular life to decide whether to return to the faith. It’s a common practice that I think is really important to why they’ve survived so long.”
I didn’t know which was worse, the fact that he completely missed the joke, or the fact that when I got home to my apartment I would end up Googling rumspringa and spending half the night reading up on it.
I’d write more about what I’ve been reading lately, but I have to go Google rumspringa now …