Saturday, February 23, 2008

Beach Music (Chesil that is)

"Chesil Beach" is a short novella about time in two parallel universes--in this case the world of the male and the world of the female struggling toward maturity in 1962, just before the world opened up to the freer sixties. The words on the page faithfully record a wedding night drama in almost real time, while lurching briefly back to the beginning of the relationship and forward through fifty or so years of life in just a flash of a few pages.

Two characters are stuck in time in a seaside resort beside a small eighteen mile strip of pebbles extending into the sea. Their story is part small part large, part trite part dire, part tender and part pathetic. In the short 200 pages, the author tackles topics of universal interest -- innocence and naiveté, confidence and self-delusion, desire and repression, opportunity lost or rejected -- and creates a small but complete universe around them.
The author, Ian McEwan keeps us on the edge of sympathy for each character, but stays with the male figure--even though it is female, Florence, that creates art as a tremulous lead violinist in a string quartet, while the male, Edward, only drifts through life being a rock record shop owner. The male starts as a ardent historian interested in writing short biographies of semi-obscure figures who lived close to the center of important historical events, but his ideas freeze when he confronts the bride he considers "frigid." The virginal and inexperienced male is demanding just a few years from the sexual revolution of the later sixties. The female is also virginal and inexperienced, but is closer to being non-sexual and pleads for time to adjust to the demands of her mate. But he cannot wait, and cannot find the words to communicate, and loses the love and the ambition of his life. Words fail both of them, and that's the book side of things.

Meanwhile, in the parallel universe of the CD version of the book, the beautiful narration by the author with his smooth British accent is a perfect fit for the words of the novel which have more of a reality coming through his voice. The narrated version creates a more vivid view of the distance between two selves, two subjective views of life: two who try to be “one,” and fail miserably.

Reading the book and hearing the CD at the same time, casts a huge spotlight on a small speck of time.

Thursday, February 21, 2008


After fighting off assorted Trojan Vundos, Downloaders, and pop-up ads, I am hoping to be back with more normal posts. It is a tough virtual world out there, but hopefully the worst is over. My XP was considered "unstable" and "open to attack," and Windows Security Pack 2 was summoned to the rescue (I hope). I am cautiously optimistic, but we will see.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Been Doing Some Hard Travelin'

Since my last posting, I have been to the northwestern part of Germany, to Amsterdam, and then back to the U.S.A. for a trip to Nashville. Each trip had a music and education connection. In Germany, I chaperoned a talented high school symphony orchestra rehearsing endlessly with their German gymnasium orchestra and then playing two challenging concerts very well. The concerts included pieces by Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, a tango, and some interesting vocal pieces by Vaughn Williams.

In Nashville, I attended an education conference, and one night went to the Grand Ol Opry, and the Country Music Hall of Fame. The sense of tradition at the Opry at the Ryman Auditorium with the traditional radio show, and the old and new artists was refreshing and very comfortable.