Quote for the commonplace book 002

“Julia was wrong; it wasn’t not having a car that had unmanned
him. It was the money. Real men had to earn a hard crust. They had to
labor at the coal face, both real and metaphorical. They didn’t spend
their days filling up their iPods with sad country songs and feeding
apples to French donkeys.”

 What’s nice about this quote from Kate Atkinson’s One Good Turn
is that she nicely inverts traditional definitions of masculinity as
outward-looking and action-oriented. Clearly, the protagonist
(Jackson) is concerned about masculinity, but doesn’t the author make
it seem as if by obsessing about it as he mopes around Edinburgh he’s
admitting that he doesn’t really have a clue about what makes a man,
except for the single datum that whatever it is, it’s not what he’s

 When I read a quote like this, uttered by a protagonist who is
spending the first few chapters of the book mulling over his personal
history while his artsy actor girlfriend rehearses her show, I begin
to suspect that the book will entail the protagonist’s discovery of
new azimuths on which he may express his masculinity or that he will
move on to discovering some other kind of virtue, like a different
lodestar. Sadly, I’m not sure the book is really moving in that
direction, leaving the promise of this quote suspended, like a fresh
set of washed linens on the line outside an abandoned house in the

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