Posted by: Corri van de Stege | February 28, 2010

Catching up – Newspapers and books, books and more books

If you live in England and, like me, enjoy your Sundays browsing through a variety of newspapers, especially on rainy Sundays when you are unwilling to leave the house, have you noticed how increasingly main sections of the papers include an article on a writer, either because they have recently published another book, or because they have died, or because ….  Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that I seem to remember that interviews with authors or book reviews, tended to be found in the review sections of papers.  Not any more, authors have become celebrities in their own rights, just as film stars, actors, football players, and yes of course politicians.  Perhaps I never noticed before.

Today, the Observer has a pleasant article about Ian McEwan.  The Observer of course prides itself on its new ‘look’ with a brand new (second week) Review section.  However, the McEwan article is right there in the main part: McEwan the literary novelist with a popular appeal.  In this review we are told that Solar, his latest book to be published in the middle of March, is not only serious, well written but also funny.  So definitely one to look out for.  I am quite a fan of McEwan actually, I liked  Atonement especially (which I read twice; and saw the film), but also Saturday, even if that had a very mixed reception.

I still have not given you  a review of  The Echo Maker by Richard Powers.  It is an excellent read, the book won the US National Book Award in 2006, but I had not read any of Powers’  books before this one.  It made headlines in several reviews here this winter and that is how I came across it.  Mark Schluter, one of the main protagonists, has a near-fatal accident and when he wakes up from his coma he has lost all memory of what happened, but also in a weird twist, imagines that his sister Karin, who has hurried to his bedside, is an impostor.  Even if she looks and sounds just like Karin, Mark is convinced that she is part of a big conspiracy, which is to keep him tied to his bed and not allow him to go back to work.  Karin contacts Weber, a well known psychoanalyst, hoping that he will be able to help identify the exact syndrome Mark is suffering from, and once identified, help him overcome it.  We learn about Capgras Syndrome and other complicated brain theories:  ‘Clearly Mark Schluter’s Capgras isn’t primarily psychiatric.  But his brain is struggling with complex interactions.  We owe himmore than a simple, one-way, functionalist, causal model”, Weber says to the young physician in charge of Mark in the hospital.

Weber takes on Mark’s case, wanting to use him in the first place as another opportunity to develop his theories about brain disorder, another case study that will contribute to his fame.  However, due to Karin’s persistence, the involvement of a nurse’s assistant who is very concerned about Mark’s well being and knows how to talk to him and how to handle him, much more so than either his sister or Dr. Weber, the story evolves into a psychological thriller: what happened really that night on the road?  What role have the ‘echo makers’ the cranes who ‘keep landing as night falls’, on their migratory route across this part of the United States?

And now?  Now I’m reading Cutting for Stone, which I heard about on one of my podcasts (I cannot remember which radio station or programme it was).  It is by Abraham Verghese and is a fantastic book that takes you to Ethopia in the 1950s and what happens in the ‘Missing Hospital’ (really the Mission Hospital, however, everyone pronounces it as Missing, so the name sticks).  However, I’m only one third of the way – so a review will have to wait a bit longer!

I’ll be reading this afternoon, in my cosy warm (and dry) Sunday Salon.



  1. Did the observer really call Ian McEwan, “Ewan” or was that your Freudian slip for the perfect combination I’ve always envisioned of Ewan McGregor and Ian McEwan? 🙂 I’ve noticed the same tendency in the British press recently — don’t get me started on all those Martin Amis pieces I can’t seem to turn away from!

  2. Lisa: completely my slip of the tongue… How did I do that? As you say, Ian, Ewan etc… And yes, the Martin Amis feud has also been reported on endlessly. As if…
    I have corrected the name: thanks for noticing and good to see you around.

  3. […] his previous book, The Echo Makers (which I reviewed in 2010), Richard Powers writes a story that revolves around memory and brain disorder: Mark, the […]

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