“A Duet”
by Ian McEwan
from the August 8, 2022 issue of The New Yorker

It’s been a busy week, so I’m posting this late. I’m sure some of you won’t mind too much, because this is an excerpt and not its own piece of short fiction. “A Duet” is a piece of Ian McEwan’s forthcoming Lessons, which will be out in about a month. I have an advanced copy, but I haven’t started it yet; I like McEwan in general, so I’ll be giving it a go. In the meantime, we have this to get us interested!

Here is the first bit of “A Duet”:

Berners, like most schools, was held together by a hierarchy of privileges, infinitesimally graded and slowly bestowed over the years. It made the older boys conservative guardians of the existing order, jealous of the rights they had earned with such patience. Why bestow new-fashioned favors on the youngest when they themselves had tolerated privations to earn the perks of greater maturity? It was a long, hard course. The youngest, the first- and second-years, were the paupers and had nothing at all. Third formers were allowed long trousers and a tie with diagonal, rather than horizontal, stripes. The fourth-years had their own common room. The fifth exchanged their gray shirts for drip-dry white, which they scrubbed in the showers and draped on plastic hangers. They also had a superior blue tie.

I hope you’re all doing well as we get started with another month!

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