Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Change in the Weather

Can't actually remember the last time I read a novel from end to end - it has been several years anyway.

I did finally get the chance since I've been on the train to London and not the car - the police get all agitated when you try reading a good book while you're driving on the M6.

I'll probably not wait a couple of years now that I've read "Solar" by Ian McEwan. His protogonist is a physicist with a planet-sized ego and a planet-sized appetite (and not a small planet either). A fairly blatant metaphor for the human race in other words. If you want the plot spoiled, read this bunch of spoilers masquerading as a review in The Guardian, otherwise just trust that the prose is excellent and well-worth the effort. All but one of the characters are one-dimensional but this is absolutely justified since the book is written from the point of view of the Prof and this is exactly the way he sees the world.

Funny how climate science seems to be chasing me around whenever I get cultural - I enjoyed the imperfect but rather brilliant play "Greenland" at the National Theatre recently. Written by four separate playwrights it gives you four different human insights into our present muddle about climate change.

* A teenager who wants to do something and can't understand why everyone else (especially her parents) don't.
* A troubled mother and daughter in family therapy - the fact that the neighbour leaves a light on all night for his dog is a crime against the planet in the daughter's eyes. To the mother though, this fretting over nothing is  a sign of mental illness.
* A geography student on a field trip to the warming Arctic
* A climate modeller's affair with one of Ed Milliband's advisers in the run-up to the Copenhagen talks

The play was treated by the critics and bloggers like a polar bear treats a guillemot chick, but I rather liked its complexity and craziness. Climate change is a complicated subject best left to atmospheric physicists, but our personal and political response to it is even more complex and this is where Ian McEwan and the four "Greenland" playwrights can make an important contribution to the debate.

The polar bear in "Greenland" was excellent too - worth the price of a ticket alone.

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