By Stephen Henighan
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Additional info for A Report on the Afterlife of Culture
Black Dogs is one of McEwan’s most ambitious and least commercial novels; ultimately, though, its central thesis feels forced. No resonant vision capable of counteracting Thatcherite transAtlanticism coheres from the novel’s disparate scenes. ” In 1987 no one A Report on the Afterlife of Culture 55 expected the Berlin Wall to be torn down at any point in the foreseeable future. The sentence betrays the fusion of McEwan’s English imperviousness to historical chronology with his populist instincts, which require him to wrench historical perceptions into alignment with the present-day outlook of his audience.
This cultural afterlife is shared by literature, music and the visual arts. We persist in reading, or listening to classical music (while washing 38 A Report on the Afterlife of Culture the dishes and talking about recycling with our mother-in-law) because we possess a vestigial historical memory that these things are good for us; residual associations link these experiences to pleasure and spiritual elevation. Books and music help to sustain our identities as people enjoying the best that life can offer; by passing on these hobbies to our children we certify our offspring as members of a superior class (in a society that feigns blindness to the concept of social class).
She wrote me occasional email messages asking about possibilities for pursuing a Master’s degree upon her return to Canada. As our correspondence progressed, I noticed that when my former student returned my messages with her replies at the top, the spelling in my earlier messages had been Americanized. ” Infuriated by this mauling of my language, I went through the old messages and rewrote them in Canadian spelling. In the next reply they had been re-Americanized. My former student eventually lost interest in doing a graduate degree and our correspondence ended.