Really not well yet, but will trundle off to work to make deadline, it being Wednesday. Caker work ethic, me, but then I have a sneaking suspicion I'd take more sickdays if my apartment was heated better relative to my office. Brussels is dry and freezing again - pleasant in terms of the sun, difficult in terms of keeping this Art Nouveau den of vice and iniquity properly heated, bloody horrible in terms of how the abscence of precipation makes the heavy particles of pollution hang visibly in the air.
So John Updike is dead. I always hated his books. Couldn't write a believable female character if you held a gun to his head, and yet he tried so hard, like that bit in the Witches of Eastwick about Sukie taking a piss. Well, lots of people liked him. And he gave Cher a pretty good role. Poor old Cher. And the thing is, he tried. All that generation of manly manly men writers, Americans trying to live up or live down or live something post-Hemingway and just looking dangerously Freudian instead, are dying out, and as a rule I don't care at all, but John Updike tried to write the woman believably instead of as a succubus or an obstacle or whatever. And now what do we have to replace that sort of effort? A generation of Anglophone writers whose books are a trial to read because they're thinking like scriptwriters instead of novelists, with the consequence that neither the men nor the women are believable. Oh well. At least we have the Europeans, Japanese and post-colonials. Very sorry the poor man is dead, in short.
Finished Our Man in Havana yesterday whilst trying to keep still and let my lungs heal. Pretty adorable but not my favourite - that's still The Quiet American, or possibly The Heart of the Matter. Yeah, probably The Heart of the Matter. In Our Man I think there was a little slap-out at Orwell's blistering 1948 review of The Heart of the Matter - uber-Catholic Milly suddenly reconciling herself to her father's romance by saying he's a pagan, so he's allowed to do whatever he wants, lucky him. But who knows. Anyways, I've enjoyed it but I'm getting sick of Graham Greene. Pattern is too dominant. Stagnation, intrique, woman, and then ambiguous ending that isn't really ambiguous. I'll give it a rest for awhile, I guess.
Pleasant to read about Havana. Cuba has a special meaning for Canadians because it's so cheap for us to go and to stay there, what with the Americans not being allowed, and obviously it's quite a bit warmer. Elvis invited us over to holiday with them, but it's extremely expensive to get there from Europe, so no can do, we'll have to get our bakingly hot vacations in North Africa this year. And Cuba's not just important for Canadian holidays. I think the first time international trade politics ever blew my mind was when I was nine or so, and I realized that Lake Ontario - downtown Toronto, actually - had a massive new Redpath sugar refinery, as well as an artfully decaying old one that had been abandonned long before.
'What the fuck?' I asked Magnum, I think it was. 'How the fuck is there a sugar refinery here? This is Canada. It's cold.' At that time of my life, I thought sugar only came from canes - wasn't familiar with beets - but in any case, a great deal of Canadian sugar comes from canes. And he told me, I think it was him, that evaporated cane juice or canes were brought in bulk from Cuba to the Toronto deepwater port, processed there, and sold to the Americans, because the Americans couldn't buy it directly for refining there, because of the embargo. And for Canadians, that was great, because it was cheap, because the American buyers were kept out of the market by their embargo, and that if the embargo ever ends it will be a problem for people who work for Redpath in Canada. I tell you my jaw dropped. It just seemed so silly. But interesting. And my attitude to our society's economic organization has not changed much since.