CULTIVATING LIBERALISM
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A McEwan Bit
Humiliation’s Bills

But for all the reductive arguments, Perowne can’t convince himself that a molecules and faulty genes alone are terrorizing his family and have broken his father-in-law’s nose. Perowne himself is also responsible. He humiliated Baxter in the street in front of his sidekicks, and did so when he’d already guessed at his condition. Naturally, Baxter is here to r5escue his reputation in front of a witness. He must have talked Nigel round, or bribed him. The lad is a fool to make himself an accessory. Baxter is acting while he still can, for he must know what’s in store for him. Over the coming months and years the athetosis, those involuntary, uncontrolled movements, and the chorea—the helpless jitters, the grimacing, the jerky raising of the shoulders and flexing of fingers and toes—will overwhelm him, render him too absurd for the street. His kind of criminality is for the physically sound. At some point he’ll find himself writhing and hallucinating on a bed he’ll never leave, in a long-term psychiatric ward, probably friendless, certainly u8nlovable, and there his slow deterioration will be managed, with efficiency if he’s in luck. Now, while he can still hold a knife, he has come to assert his dignity, and perhaps even shape the way he’ll be remembered. Yeah, that tall geezer with the Merc made a big fucking mistake when he trashed old Baxter’s wing mirror. The story of Baxter deserted by his men, defeated by a stranger who was able to walk away unscathed, all that will be forgotten.

—From Ian McEwan’sSaturday” (Nan Talese/Doubleday, 2005).

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