When I was at MRU, I lived near the hospital and walked to work. I sometimes listened to music, but mostly I listened to the city.
Now, there is nowhere to live in walking distance, so I drive. While I drive I listen to books. I try to listen to things to improve myself, as if improvement was really possible. Then I go through a spasm of irritation at my absurdity and go back to listening to bad murder mysteries, and science fiction when available, the things I enjoy.
My car is old. There is no USB port, no connection to the internet, no maps. When I bought this car, I was thrilled to have a CD player, as opposed to the tape decks of previous cars. So, to listen I check out books on disks from the public library. My selection is limited to what the local library, in this small town, deems worthy. There are more murder mysteries than science fiction, and I just refuse to read or listen to fantasy any more.
From time to time, I am revisited by the urge to hear something different. I check out a book that my old book club would have read. Something Irish and depressing and filled with alcoholic people who cannot control their lives or futures. Something that is to science fiction what this post is to my usual fare of professionalism and grantsmanship.
Of those literary books, I get past the first disk of about half of them. One of the freedoms I have given myself in old age is the peace of mind not to finish a book. I suspect I lose some that had I but read or listened for another chapter or three I might enjoy it. But mostly I save myself a week of boredom.
So last week I pulled Graham Greene's End of an Affair from the shelf. I do not know why. I have never particularly like Greene and his tortured Catholicism, though I have read some of his more entertaining books. I certainly do enjoy some of the ones that were turned into excellent movies of the 40s and 50s: The Third Man (Orson Wells at his near finest), 21 Days, The Quiet American, The Honorary Consul with Michael Caine. Some have been remade - Neil Jordan made The End of the Affair with Ralph Fiennes and Julianne Moore and Stephen Rae in 1999, but I haven't seen it.
I was very prepared for not finishing this one. My car audio system has not been working well, which is the problem with old cars and old audio systems, and I never quite have the time to go get it fixed, or more likely replaced. Perhaps that's why I picked it - so I wouldn't be frustrated if I got in the car wanting to hear the book and not being able to do so.
But the book is pulling me, despite expectations. It is read by Colin Firth, and he is perfect for the material. Or perhaps this one of his voices that he has selected as perfect for the material. When I walk to my car at the end of the day, I buoyed to think I will hear more of this story.
The buoyance is odd, as the story is self-described as being about hate and jealousy and anger. I usually listen for story, for the history, the what-happens-next. But the words of this have me.
Pain is easy to write. In pain we're all happily individual. But what can one write about happiness?”― Graham Greene
One quote, by the narrator, who is a novelist, about writing struck me as being about doing science, too:
So much in writing depends on the superficiality of one's days. One may be preoccupied with shopping and income tax returns and chance conversations, but the stream of the unconscious continues to flow undisturbed, solving problems, planning ahead: one sits down sterile and dispirited at the desk, and suddenly the words come as though from the air: the situations that seemed blocked in a hopeless impasse move forward: the work has been done while one slept or shopped or talked with friends.” ― Graham Greene
I don't hate the way the narrator does, but I do remember the emotion. The quotes about his writing though, speak deeply to me. And of course, one of his most famous quotes:
One has no talent. I have no talent. It’s just a question of working, of being willing to put in the time. ― Graham Greene