Nutshell by Ian McEwan

thA chewy novel deserves to be chewed slowly.

Last night, after my book club friends drove out of my drive, I picked up a new novel. Ian McEwan’s Nutshell. I didn’t last more than a few pages before I succumbed to sleep. I could not make heads nor tails on what the book was about, but after cleaning the house, or at least one floor, the only floor in the house that get attention, I was exhausted. Two glasses of wine didn’t help.

This morning, while at the bowling alley, not the best atmosphere for bowling, as I was constantly monitoring whether my turn was about to come up, I tried to read the book again, but this time I cheated and read the inside flap. I rarely do. I like to be able to figure out what the book is about on my own and not be given the gist of the characters, but this time I am glad.

Are all of McEwan’s books so chewy? Grandiose words. Amazing descriptions. Words that had never spent much time together, words that you would think wouldn’t work, but when McEwan matches them up, it’s beautiful the way they fit.

I am almost positive I have read a book of his, might even have been for the book club. It’s going to take some time for me to search the list of books I’ve read since signing up for Goodreads. Goodreads keeps me from unintentionally re-reading books. I’ve read 411 books and I’m scrolling through the list until I get to the M’s. Doesn’t help that I’m scrolling through my cell phone and you can’t fit that many books on a screen that small. I stop and write as a I scroll.

I am rather impressed with myself with reading 411 books, considering the snail’s pace that I read and to add to my glacial pace, sometimes re-reading is required. Sometimes I’ll get a book and I realize I have to take notes to keep my brain on track. There have been times when I am more than half way through a book, though halfway is where I ask myself, What is this book about? Can I name any of the characters? How about the setting? Clean slate makes me start the book all over again.

According to Goodreads, I have read two of his books. Atonement and The Child in Time. Good thing I don’t test myself as I’ve got nothing in my memory. According to my review, Great description takes the place of action.” I think I need to beef up my book reviews as I have no idea what the hell I was talking about. Was it a slow book? What kind of description. I’m not going to get too many people picking Atonement up even if I did give it four out of five stars.

It took me six days to read Atonement, but it took me almost a month. I rated this book with four stars as well, and at least I have a longer review. “At times I was bogged down and rather bored with what seemed like irrelevant information, especially about politics, but I am glad I didn’t give up. Intriguing ending.”

I didn’t promise the review would be better. I’m very good at being cryptic and general. I could use to learn a thing or two or a billion from Ian McEwan. And this is the purpose of this close reading. I’ve created a page just for this analysis, but I’m not sure if I’ll be able to figure out the logistics. I don’t want just one long blog. I want separate chunks as I’m planning on taking as many days and blogs as is required.

Earlier in this blog, I mentioned that I had started and re-started Nutshell not in conducive to understanding environments. Now that the fridge is the only extraneous noise, I can devote all of my sensory identifiers to the book. I will need all the help that I can get.

I’m not the only one who gives General reviews. The Washington Post Book World said, “No one now writing fiction in the English Language surpasses Ian McEwan.” Maybe I’ll have to read the entire review or at least a few more paragraphs to understand why they give such glowing words.

Inside the jacket: “Trudy has betrayed her husband, John. She’s still in the marital home-a dilapidated, priceless London town house-but John’s not there. Instead, she’s with his brother, the profoundly banal Claude, and the two of them have a plan. But there is a witness to their plot: the inquisitive, nine-month-old resident of Trudy’s womb. Told from a perspective unlike any other, Nutshell is a classic tale of murder and deceit from one of the world’s master storyteller.”

I like quotes. Why not start a book off with one. “Oh God, I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space-were it not that I have bad dreams.” SHAKESPEARE, Hamlet. Did McEwan insert this quote because it happened to have nutshell in it or is their some close connection? I’m not even sure I understand the quote. Is the person claustrophobic? Stepping way from the literal, I think about being a king or queen in a nuthouse and Hamlet’s sanity was being questioned.

“So here I am, upside down in a woman. Arms patiently crossed, waiting, waiting and wondering who I’m in, what I’m in for. My eyes close nostalgically when I remember how I once drifted in my translucent body bag, floated dreamily in the bubble of my thoughts through my private ocean in slow motion somersaults, colliding gently against the transparent bounds of my confinement, the confiding membrane that vibrated with, even as it muffled, the voices of conspirators in a vile enterprise. That was in my careless youth. Now, fully inverted, not an inch of space to myself-knees crammed against belly, my thoughts as well as my head are fully engaged. I’ve not choice, my ear is pressed all day and night against the bloody walls. I listen, make mental notes, and I’m troubled.”

When was the last time you read a story where the protagonist hasn’t even been born? I can’t imagine the fetal position being all that comfortable. At what age does the kicking begin? Is age even the right verb to use since our lives only begin after birth. At what phase does thought begin. Do you see how hard it is for a person like me who has to take a paragraph, chew on it for a while and then to know what I think I have to spit it out.