On my way back from Buffalo, I saw a huge sign painted on the wall of an airport: KEEP YOUR SMILE IN ITS LOCKED AND UPRIGHT POSITION!
Mine was not. My flight from Chicago was canceled due to -- get this -- a lack of pilots. We were all seated on the plane when the flight attendant removed us all, explaining that the pilots could not legally fly because they were one hour over the flight time allowed by the FAA. So United put up an entire Airbus 320-A of people at O'Hare hotels, gave them meal vouchers, and brought them back the next morning to the same plane, which had sat there empty all night. Nobody in scheduling could notice a problem sometime before we were due to take off?
All this put me in a perfect frame of mine to read Ian McEwan's latest novel, SOLAR. Its protagonist, Michael Beard, is one of the most unlikable viewpoint characters in fiction: lying, cheating, gluttonous, and not in the jolly way of a Falstaff. Beard, a physicist and Nobel Laureate, steals the work of a post-doc, sees that an innocent man goes to jail for the post-doc's accidental death, lies to his business partners, cheats on five wives and innumerable mistresses, neglects his daughter, and finally betrays the cause for which he is ostensibly working (climate control).
The novel is extremely well written (this is the brilliant author of ATONEMENT and SATURDAY, after all) and possibly meant as black comedy. In addition, I usually don't mind unsympathetic protags if they are interesting. But whether or not it was my bad plane karma, I didn't like this book. And [SPOILER ALERT] Beard doesn't even get a comeuppance from any of his moral transgressions; at the end of the book he dies of a heart attack just before the cops and lawyers close in.
McEwan's smile is not in locked and upright position. That's usually a good thing. But this time out, neither was mine.