In his affectionate profile of the great English novelist Ian McEwan (“The Background Hum,” 2/23/09), Daniel Zalewski writes that McEwan “is surely the only novelist who owns a tie patterned with images of a craniotome — a tool for drilling holes in the skull.”
In fact, my second daughter, Bethany, a practicing neuropathologist (Harvard ’99), gave me just such a tie as a gift on the occasion of my fifty-eighth birthday, in April 1996 — the same month, I should add, that saw the publication of my fourth novel, The Black Bridesmaid. With all due respect to the New Yorker‘s factchecking staff, a correction is in order.
Zalewski goes on to report that McEwan, “at sixty, has probably rambled more miles than any English writer since Coleridge.” I acknowledge the difficulty one may have in determining what precisely constitutes a ramble; it must be stated, however, that I, too, am an English writer (born and raised in Thrussex Grambles, East Pouncey), and, with notably few exceptions, I’ve rambled every day of my life since puberty. In good weather, I often ramble twice a day, and, during my most active years (1973–1990), I rambled for weeks at a time. Each of my individual ramble-sessions covers between ten and fifteen miles; I rarely ramble fewer than six. Surely Ian McEwan has not rambled quite so much as that.