“They thought these things so that they were not terrified all the time,” Denise Mina, The Long Drop

But Mr Cooke knows what has happened to his daughter. It has happened before out there, in those fields. Girls and women attacked and no one caught. He thought, his wife thought, that women should not be out at that time. He thought and his wife said, they must be peculiar kinds of women to be out there at that time, in a field with a man. They didn’t think these things because they were nasty people, or spiteful or uncaring. They thought these things so that they were not terrified all the time. Otherwise they would never have allowed their Isabella out of the door.

—Denise Mina, The Long Drop

Mina’s entire book is written in the present tense except for this paragraph, which serves as a kind of aside to the reader: this is the way things were, the way that my book describes, I want you, dear Reader, to understand how things differed from the present day.

The entire book, set in a coaldusted postwar Glasgow has a sheen of unreality, abetted by the use of the present tense throughout. As I’ve been realizing lately, the way people think in books is not necessarily the way I think in real life. Mina has intuited this also and tossed the contemporary reader this bone; I read this parenthetical remark and not only the critical distance between the book’s 1950s and the contemporary day but an appreciation of Mina’s reverence for the milieu came into focus.

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