Patty Osborne

I didn't actually read Ian McEwan's Amsterdam (Knopf) at the cottage, but I did write this note there, during a week spent blissfully alone. The only men around were the ones in this book: Clive, a prominent composer, and Vernon, the editor of a high-quality newspaper, are friends and ex-lovers of Molly, who has just died. Following Molly's funeral, separate incidents force each of these men to face a crisis of conscience during which they turn to each other for help. Alas, each man is so embroiled in his own problems that neither can do anything but judge the other. As the story unfolds, first in London and then in Amsterdam, we see two men propelled by their own tunnel vision toward a solution that at first seems unbelievable. As we see it coming we assume there will be an intervention, but no, they carry on despite our assumptions, and the inevitable conclusion is reached like a well-orchestrated finale. There's enough quiet humour in this book to keep it from weightiness, and just reviewing it gave me my fill of the male psyche for the rest of the week.

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Michael Hayward

Vanishing Career Paths

Review of "The Last Bookseller: A Life in the Rare Book Trade" by Gary Goodman, and "A Factotum in the Book Trade" by Marius Kociejowski.

Sara Graefe

My Summer Behind the Iron Curtain

No Skylab buzz in East Germany.

Danielle Hubbard

The muse hunt

"The following resume / arrived by fax: One ex-military / man, 52, applying / for duty ..."