Monday, July 24, 2006

Reading with jetlag

John McGahern's novel 'That they may face the rising sun' contains some of the best prose I have read in years. Although based in Ireland it evokes my own rural upbringing in central-western NSW - particularly in the way he deals with time, place and relationships. It was ideal reading for jet-lagged hours of wakefulness upon my return to Oz. One short exerpt particularly captured my attention (p.170): 'When it was considered carefully, all Frank Dolan had done was to be too honest and too self-expressive. Each quality alone was dangerous enough: combined together they were a recipe for disaster'. This reflection arose when Frank Dolan 'lost' a sure bank loan because he was not prepared to play the game - to 'stretch the truth' to meet the needs of the 'banking system'. The story is germane to contemporary organisational life - and perhaps close to the bone when it comes to my own circumstances and that of my colleague, John Naughton, whose well selected gift the book was.

One excerpt in my other reading also reminded me of John, a committed Fellow of Wolfson College, Cambridge - in her 'The Knox Brothers' Penelope Fitzgerald, citing her father, Eddie Knox (circa 1910) says: 'This shocked Owen [Seaman, the influential editor of Punch], who controlled the politics of England entirely in verse. He had, indeed, a strong sense of vocation, and I remember his saying sadly about somebody or other, 'he is the kind of man who doesn't take his humour seriously'.

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