Holidays give me the chance to read random fiction and for some reason my choices are rarely sunny. I have just finished Lionel Shriver’s ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’. I found it compelling and intelligent. When reading, a single phrase can sometimes catch the attention, illustrating something more than the novel’s themes. I liked this one,
In the particular dwells the tawdry. In the conceptual dwells the grand, the transcendent, the everlasting.
It struck me that this encapsulates the appeal of murderous ideologies, reframing one’s life as part of a heroic drama, eschewing the particular. Of course, suicide terrorists never have to face the particular - the misery and the carnage they cause to real human beings - others simply excuse the suffering, seeing only their ‘noble’ cause. It is in the particular, the valuing of all individual lives, that the ideal of universal human rights arises. The right to the tawdry is one of the most noble of our concepts.
Then again, I do have a terrible hangover.