Friday, December 07, 2012

Maths or Literature?

I've begun reading Ian McEwan's “Sweet Tooth”. I'm finding it a veritable page-turner, no doubt because the prose is so elegant, and the tone so ironic and witty, reflecting a luminous intelligence that Ian McEwan obviously possesses.

Set in the Britain of circa 1972, “Sweet Tooth” is written from the first-person viewpoint of Serena Frome, a twenty-something woman, who, after graduating from the University with a Maths degree, has joined MI5 as a very junior functionary.

Despite that Serena's degree was in Maths, her big love has always been reading novels, that she gobbles up at a rate of four or five a week. It might be thought, then, that Serena would have studied English literature at the University. However, her Mother had insisted she study Maths because it would be more useful afterwards.

While Serena would have loved to major in English literature, she didn't subsequently regret not doing so because she saw that having to study novels to pass exams might have destroyed her love of literature. For what it's worth, I understand absolutely why she thought this. Novels shouldn't be cerebrally analysed, but savoured and experienced and enjoyed. Well, it's what I think.


  1. Yep. And really good novels--like this one--make you want to stay up all night (akrasia!) reading them.

  2. I, too, could easily stay up all night reading this. I don't, though, because it would be like wolfing down a delicious meal that must be eaten slowly to best savour the taste.

    Hence I like to take my time reading the likes of "Sweet Tooth". I practice Tantric Reading, you might say.

    I particularly like the outlines of Tom Haley's short stories. They raise the obvious question: What's likely to be in Ian McEwan's next book?!!

  3. I have a bit of Serena's speed reading addiction. I'm eager to hear what you think of how it all turns out.

  4. Woody Allen once said: "I took a course in speed reading. I read War and Peace in twenty minutes. It's about Russia."