Sunday 24 January 2010

Two and a Half Men and One Novel

Sorry the posting has been so scant lately. My working life (roll on its end) is in a peculiarly demanding phase at the moment and, as a result, is occupying far far more of my time, attention and mental activity than is compatible with doing anything much else. Typically, working days have been ending with the wrung-out wreckage of me slumped in front of Comedy Central watching back-to-back Two And A Half Men and wishing it was Frasier. Actually, though, Two And A Half Men is a pretty remarkable sitcom of the 'no hugs, no learning' school. Charlie Sheen plays a rich, sex-addicted sociopath (no typecasting there) who shares his home with his uptight divorced brother - equally sex-obsessed but fiasco-prone - and the brother's weird kid. In the background is the brothers' sex-addicted sociopath mother, and in the foreground, acting as a kind of Chorus, is their sharp-tongued, biker-built housekeeper, the force that actually rules the household and keeps it together. In most episodes the plot revolves around the sexual rivalry of the brothers, culminating in Charlie's invariable routing and humiliation of his sad sap of a brother. See - what's not to like? The fact that it's actually funny says much for the sharpness of the scriptwriting. A British version of this would be utterly witless and unwatchable... So those are my well-spent evenings, followed by coma-like but too brief sleep, then back into the workstorm. On a more exalted level, I have managed to read along the way another William Maxwell, They Came Like Swallows. As short as So Long See You Tomorrow, but from much earlier in Maxwell's career, it is every bit as deft and heartbeakingly precise, with never a word wasted and the author's immersion in his characters and their world total. Set in 1918 during the influenza epidemic, it tells its desperately sad (and semi-autobiographical) story through the eyes of two very different brothers and their father. To say more would be to give too much away to any who haven't read it, but it is a quite extraordinary book, one that is impossible to finish without tears. And now I'm reading more V.S.Pritchett short stories... Life goes on - and will return to something much more liveable and leisurely before long. It can't be too soon. (The picture is in honour of Edouard Manet's birthday yesterday.)


  1. I enjoyed the one when Alan got a brief one-up on Charlie by feeding him all the wrong answers to a cheat sheet on personal details for a girlfriend he actually liked. Such as her cat being called 'man-doo'

  2. While I don't envy you the workstorm I wouldn't mind the coma-like sleep, even a brief one.