15. desember

"And there's something in the loping authority of Theo's playing that revives for Henry the inexplicable lure of that simple progression. Theo is the sort of guitarist who plays in an open-eyed trance, without moving his body or ever glancing down at his hands. He concedes only an occasional thoughtful nod. Now and then, during a set he might tilt back his head to indicate to the others that he is 'going round' again. He carries himself on stage as he does in conversation, quietly, formally, projecting his privacy within a shell of friendly politeness. If he happens to spot his parents at the back of a crowd, he'll lift his left hand from the fret in a shy and private salute. Henry and Rosalind remember then the cardboard crib in the school gymnasium, the solemn five-year-old Joseph, tea towel bound to his head by a crown of rubber bands, holding the hand of a stricken Mary, making the same furtive, affectionate gesture as he located at last his parents in the second row.

This restraint, this cool, suits the blues, or Theo's version of it. When he breaks on a medium-paced standard like 'Sweet Home Chicago', with its slouching dotted rythm -- he's said he's beginning to tire of these evergreen blues -- he'll set off in the lower register with an easy muscular stride, like some sleek predatory creature, shuffling off tiredness, devouring miles of open savannah. Then he moves on up, the fret and the diffidence begins to carry a hint of danger. A little syncopated stab on the turnaround, the sudden chop of an augmented chord, a note held against the tide of harmony, a judiciously flattened fifth, a seventh bent in sensuous microtones. Then a passing soulful dissonance. He has the rythmic gift of upending expectation, a way of playing off triplets against two- or four-note clusters. His runs have the tilt and accent of bebop. It's a form of hypnosis, of effortless seduction. Henry has told no one, not even Rosalind, that there are moments, listening from the back of a West End bar, when the music thrills him, and in a state of exaltation he feels his pride in his son -- inseparable from his pleasure in the music -- as a constricting sensation in his chest, close to pain. It's difficult to breathe. At the heart of the blues is not melancholy, but a strange and worldly joy.

Theo's guitar pierces him because it also carries a reprimand, a reminder of buried dissatisfaction in his own life, of the missing element. This feeling can grow when a set is over, when the consultant neurosurgeon makes his affectionate farewells to Theo and his friends and, emerging onto the pavement, decides to go home on foot and reflect. There's nothing in his own life that contains this inventiveness, this style of being free. The music speaks to unexpressed longing or frustration, a sense that he's denied himself an open road, the life of the heart celebrated in the songs. There has to be more to life than merely saving lives. The discipline and responsibility of a medical career, compounded by starting a family in his mid-twenties - and over much of it, a veil of fatigue; he's still young enough to yearn for the unpredictable and unrestrained, and old enough to know the chances are narrowing. Is he about to become that man, that modern fool of a certain age, who finds himself pausing by shop windows to stare in at the saxophones or the motorbikes, or driven to find himself a mistress of his daughter's age? He's already bought himself an expensive car. Theo's playing carries the burden of regret into his father's heart. It is, after all, the blues.

By way of greeting, Theo lets his chair tip forward onto four legs and raises a hand. It's not his style to show surprise.

'Early start?'

'I've just seen a plane on fire, heading into Heathrow.'

'You're kidding.'

Henry is going towards the hi-fi, intending to retune it, but Theo picks up the remote from the kitchen table and turns on the small TV they keep near the stove for moments like this, breaking stories. They wait for the grandiose preamble to the four o'clock news to finish -- pulsing synthetic music, spiralling, radiating computer graphics, combined in a son et lumire of Wagnerian scale to suggest urgency, technology, global coverage. Then the usual square-jawed anchor of about Perowne's age begins to list the main stories of the hour. Straight away it's obvious that the burning plane has yet to enter the planetary matrix. It remains an unreliable subjective event. Still, they listen to some of the list.

'Hans Blix -- a case for war?' the anchor intones over the sound of tom-toms, and pictures of the French Foreign Minister, M. de Villiepin, being applauded in the UN debating chamber. 'Yes, say US and Britain. No, say the majority.' The, preparations for anti-war demonstrations later today in London and countless cities around the world; a tennis championship in Florida disrupted by a woman with a bread-knife ...

He turns the set off and says, 'How about some coffee?' and while Theo gets up to oblige, Henry gives him the story, his main story of the hour. It shouldn't surprise him how little there is to tell -- the plane and its point of light traversing his field of view, left to right, behind the trees, behind the Post Office Tower, then receding to the west. But he feels he's been through so much more.

'But uh, so what were you doing at the window?'

'I told you. I couldn't sleep.'

'Some coincidence.'

'Exactly that.'

Their eyes meet - a moment of potential challenge -- then Theo looks away and shrugs. His sister, on the other hand, likes adversarial argument -- Daisy and Henry share an inspired love - a pathetic addiction, Rosalind and Theo would say -- for a furious set-to. In the ripe teenage mulch of his bedroom, among the guitar magazines, discarded shirts and socks and smoothie bottles, are barely touched books on UFOs, a term these days interchangeable with spacecraft, alien-owned and driven. As Henry understands it, Theo's world-view accommodates a hunch that somehow everything is connected, interestingly connected, and that certain authorities, notably the US goverment, with privileged access to extra-terrestrial intelligence, is excluding the rest of the world from such wondrous knowledge as contemporary science, dull and strait-laced, cannot begin to comprehend. This knowledge is divulged in other paperbacks, also barely touched by Theo. His curiosity, mild as it is, has been hijacked by peddlers of fakery. But does it matter, when he can play the guitar like an angel ringing a bell, when he's at least keeping faith with forms of wondrous knowledge, when there's so much time to change his mind, if indeed he has made it up?

He's a gentle boy - those big lashes, those dark velvety eyes with their faint oriental pitch; he isn't the sort to enter easily into disputes. Their eyes meet, and he looks away with his own thoughts intact. The universe might be showing his father a connection, a sign which he chooses not to read. What can anyone do about that?"

-- Fra Ian McEwan: "Saturday" (2005)

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ingermerete

ingermerete

35, Oslo

Inger Merete Hobbelstad (f. 1980) er kulturjournalist, teateranmelder og filmanmelder i Dagbladet og burde egentlig vre lut lei av skrive etter endt arbeidsdag. Men den gang ei. Jo, og s har jeg mastergrad i Litteraturvitenskap med en oppgave som handlet om Homers "Iliaden". Hvilket jeg altfor sjelden fr sprsml om. Og s ns jeg p imh@dagbladet.no.

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