idiots - June 27, 2023

Norton reads Ian McEwan

The first meeting after the great revelation was to be about "Enduring Love", a novel by Ian McEwan. And it was Norton who was to be the presenter.

"Who?" asked Jasmina.

"Norton," I said.

"Are you kidding me? Has Norton ever read a novel in his entire life?"

"He most certainly has."

Perhaps I should offer an explanation here. Jasmina is not one of us. She is not a fachidiot. In fact, she is very far from being one. She studied history of art and is a professor at the Faculty of Arts in Ljubljana. She is incredibly well-read and knowledgeable in many areas. However, she married one of us. She married a fachidiot. To be precise – she married Janez, a prototype fachidiot.

I think Jasmina actually likes us. All of us. Well, not Andi. The two of them don’t like each other at all. I will now say something ridiculous, but that it is how I see it. She is somehow like a mother to us. She patiently corrects us and is utterly sympathetic when we say something stupid. Which is most of the time, of course.

But somehow, I hoped we would be able to transform ourselves back to humans without her help. However, now, at our first meeting in a new form, in a small cafe in Vipava, Janez arrived and Jasmina came with him. And the three of us were waiting for the others.

"He used to read novels when he was younger," I said. "And he still does occasionally."

"Are you sure he has ever read anything other than Bobby Fischer and Garry Kasparov biographies?" asked Jasmina.

It’s true. Norton is crazy about chess. He is a physicist and has been pretty much obsessed with physics ever since he started his studies twenty years ago. He stayed in academia and is a professor of molecular physics. And chess is the only thing he loves besides physics.

"In any case, he’s just read Enduring Love and he’s going to present it today," I said.

"Oh!" exclaimed Jasmina. "This is such a beautiful novel! But are you sure Norton’s understood it?"

"Oh, come on!" I exclaimed.

"You guys should start with something lighter," said Jasmina. "Even Janez hasn’t read it yet."

"Oh, come on!" I said again. "Janez?"

Because you know – Janez is a great guy, he can fix pretty much anything, he has a PhD in electrical engineering, but he knows everything about electricity and electronics from a practical point of view too. Is your dishwasher broken? No problem, call Janez. Your car suddenly won’t start? No problem, call Janez. And Janez will come. He always comes. Because he’s kind. Because he’s a great guy. But he doesn’t have the slightest clue about literature. However, for some reason, Jasmina thinks he is something like a literary genius as well.

Edvard came next, saying: "Oh, look, we have a new electrical engineer here. Hi, Jasmina!"

"Asshole," said Jasmina.

But Edvard is actually on good terms with Jasmina.

"Well, what can I do, it’s her area," said Janez. "She couldn’t resist when she heard we were going to talk about literature."

"You never came when we played chess," I said.

"Chess is so boring," said Jasmina.

Norton arrived. And Andi.

"It is," said Andi. "It is boring, right, Norton?"

"Let’s just start, Norton," I proposed. "Let’s just start with the novel you’ve read."

"Oh, yes! Go Norton, go!" Andi was shouting.

A couple of words about Andi. He is the only extrovert in our company. He is loud and self-confident. For a good reason, actually. It is kind of funny, but in high school, he won the national math competition and Latin language competition in the same year. Nowadays, he works as a software developer, and some say he’s never reached his potential. He is a tremendous software engineer though. But they might be right. You know, just another fachidiot.

Norton stood up.

"Sit down, asshole!" said Andi. "You don’t need to stand, Norton!"

Norton sat back. He was not offended. He doesn’t take offense easily. Well, it was not meant as offense anyway.

"I was surprised," started Norton. "I didn’t expect it would be about physics. Well, it’s not, but in a way... the main protagonist, Joe Rose, has a doctorate in quantum electrodynamics."

"Oh, just don’t tell me this is a coincidence," said Andi.

"Well, it is," said Norton. "Anyway, Joe Rose left university, traveled for some time, went into business, then tried to get back into academia but too much time had passed in between. Eventually, he became a tremendously successful expositor of science."

"I knew it!" exclaimed Andi. "I knew this was going to be everything he notices. Physics! Like physics is fucking everything you can find in this novel!"

"No," said Norton. "It’s not everything. I was deeply touched by Joe being unhappy with himself in his bad moments. He thinks he is a parasite, he thinks that all he’s doing is writing about other people’s ideas. I feel this way too sometimes. I sometimes think I am a parasite too."

"Come on, Norton!" said Andi. "Don’t tell me you’re going to cry? You motherfucker."

"No," said Norton.

"You fucker," continued Andi. "Just leave the parasites and tell us about the core of the novel."

"Andi, shut up!" said Edvard. "Can’t you see the guy is sad?"

"I can see," said Andi. "Just continue, fucker."

Norton didn’t mind Andi. He is too smart for that. He pulled the book out of his bag. He stood up and started reading aloud.

"Shiiiiiiiiiiiiit," said Andi. "You cannot be serious?"

"Who are these lunatics?" asked a youngster behind the nearby table.

"Oh, some crazy physicists and mathematicians. Or the like," said his neighbor. "And the one who is taking notes broke off a piece of a monument dedicated to the fallen in World War II some decades ago. Don’t you know them?"

Eventually, Norton had to sit down. Too much attention. Everybody in the cafe was watching us. Everybody was watching Norton.

We never reached the core of the novel. But there was a short dispute about who was going to borrow the novel from Norton first. Yeah, because of physics.

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