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Old 9th Dec 2009, 18:13   #311
saliotthomas
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Default Re: Ian McEwan

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Originally Posted by fanshawe View Post
It's only a slight exaggeration to say I'd rather cut my own dick off than read that novel.
I don't know for you but each type i say this kind of thing, i end up with the book as a present, then go somewhere and take it by mistake for long trip.

If the gods exist, they have a weird sense of humour.
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Old 9th Dec 2009, 19:02   #312
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Default Re: Ian McEwan

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Originally Posted by John Self View Post

It reads almost like a self-published book in places, all that breathless telling, the neat correspondences and callbacks. It pains me grievously to think that this will be one of the most widely read and reviewed books of 2010.
Yoicks. Given that John Self is one of the most even-handed readers that I know, this is a major break from well-established form. I haven't read the New Yorker excerpt (but probably will) but would offer the cautionary observation that McEwan does not "excerpt" well. On the other side, however, the prospect of reading about a climate change expert does move the bar much higher.
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Old 9th Dec 2009, 19:17   #313
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Default Re: Ian McEwan

John, I could probably find this out myself, and probably even knew it at one time, but which McEwan books do you particularly dislike? I know you're keen on Enduring Love and...er, other ones, too.
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Old 9th Dec 2009, 19:38   #314
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Default Re: Ian McEwan

If he says Atonement, I'm grabbing my torch and pitchfork...
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Old 9th Dec 2009, 19:58   #315
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Default Re: Ian McEwan

I'm starting to doubt that he'll say anything at all...
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Old 9th Dec 2009, 20:04   #316
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Default Re: Ian McEwan

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Originally Posted by KevinfromCanada View Post
Given that John Self is one of the most even-handed readers that I know, this is a major break from well-established form.
You're right Kevin. Looking back at it, my post above seems almost hysterical. Yet that's a fair representation of the effect the excerpt had on me. There were other people on Twitter also reading it (including Trevor Berrett from The Mookse and the Gripes, who said he "didn't get much out of it" himself). One person said that the excerpt seemed "pleased with itself," and this struck me as exactly right.

It's something to do with the cosiness I referred to above, and it seems to me to be connected also to the fact that pretty much all McEwan's characters are successful careerists, 'movers and shakers' if you like: going back to all the books of his I've read from the mid-80s to date, we have children's writer and his friend the cabinet minister (The Child in Time); science writer (Enduring Love); composer and newspaper editor (Amsterdam); writer (Atonement); neurosurgeon (Saturday); gifted violinist, daughter of a philosophy lecturer (On Chesil Beach); and now Nobel-Prize-winning (no less) scientist (Solar). (Sorry, I couldn't recall the occupations of the central characters in Black Dogs.) Now these are all real jobs (especially newspaper editor ), and I say all this as someone whose own profession would be seen by many as pretty cosy and 'safe', but his palate does seem somewhat limited. Didn't he get the memo that failure is more interesting than success?

Someone else said "it doesn't read like the work of someone who's got a lot of books behind them", and I agree with that too. The narrative is cloying and clogged. However one person whose views were being conveyed by a Twitterer on his behalf, did like it, and said, "I challenge someone else to construct so convincing an early history of romance and split (over approx 5/6 years) in 2000 words." To that my response was to ask him to read the 6 pages early in Richard Yates' Cold Spring Harbor which do precisely that, in a much less glutinous way than McEwan.

So anyway. I may be wildly misjudging the book based on the excerpt, but the fact remains that I am now going to be prejudiced against it if I do read it. (Another Twitterer urged me to do so. "I love a hatchet job.") But really - that stretch where Beard learns all about Milton to impress the "dirty girl" - give me strength. That's bad by any measure, surely?

Bill and Paul, my McEwan experiences would be divided roughly as follows:

PRO:
First Love, Last Rites
Enduring Love
Atonement


CON:
In Between the Sheets
The Child in Time
Amsterdam


MIXED:
Saturday (I think I gave it at the time, but it has weakened considerably in my memory)
On Chesil Beach

CAN'T REMEMBER:
The Comfort of Strangers
Black Dogs
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Old 9th Dec 2009, 21:54   #317
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Default Re: Ian McEwan

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And what sort of mimsy twerp refers to Sgt Pepper as Sgt Pepper's?
*Raises hand, shamefacedly*
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Old 10th Dec 2009, 4:27   #318
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Default Re: Ian McEwan

Now that I have read the New Yorker excerpt, I have to admit that this seems terrible.
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Old 10th Dec 2009, 5:41   #319
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Default Re: Ian McEwan

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Originally Posted by lurgee View Post
*Raises hand, shamefacedly*
As well ye should!

Ian McEwan has never really done it for me...suppose I've always liked a...spikier aspect to my writing, and really, once you consider the people we've had on our team.

- B.S. Johnson, suicided, obscure despite an award-nominated biography by Jonathan Coe. That lightweight piss-stain Giles Coren wrote a sneering review somewhere or other. Should probably have the word NEPOTISM tattooed backwards across his forehead, just to remind of his place in life, culture and art. Fuck off and shout at yer subbs Gilesy.

- Wyndham Lewis, here you have to slip past a Celine, fascist-sympathies barrier, or as I prefer it smash right through. Is the writing any good? The Apes of God is better than anything McEwan's ever written or , if that excerpt is accurate, anything he's likely to write in the future. Christ his fascist apologetics were more entertaining than the 'liberal-interventionist' bilge Ian's produced in these later times.

- David Peace: GB84, the Red Riding books, The Damed Utd. All better than anything in McEwan's recent arsenal.

- Malcolm Lowry - "left to rot because he didn't think like them" - Mark E. Smith. Under the Volcano, better than anything McEwan has ever written, and on the evidence of that extract ever will write.

- JG Ballard, for fucks sake. I know he wrote Sci-Fi stuff (bloody qood Sci-Fi stuff at that) but is that considered some horrible crime. Besides I'll offer High-Rise, Millenium People even the less-regarded Kingdom Come and a short story The Enormous Space, and they're all better than the sainted Atonement.

I'll think of others - just have in fact, Glen Duncan - so whence this Ian McEwan, rock of modern Eng-lit stuff come from?

DJ Taylor mentioned the "praetorian guard of heroic vigilance" which forms around McEwan so a good slagging is hard to locate. Sometimes though a good one slips through, and creates a row. Rowdy as writers and critics get anyway.

It really was fucking Saturday that finished McEwan for me. Tried him in college, tried him at University, tried him on night shift breaks. Decided the man was'nt really my type. The critics might love this stuff but I didn't.

Then, Saturday, rave reviews about this great 9/11, war on terror novel, the one that mattered was what I was promised. What did I get? Middle of the road politics, wealth-porn, hateful offspring (anyone who didn't want to gouge out Theo's eyes with a spoon is a better man than I - and break all his fingers while you're at it - I can hear the sort of music a Theo blues band would produce and you'd be doing the world of music a favour.)

The book also had its unintentional hilarity - 'I was going to rape you like, but after that poem.'

And then there's Old Henry himself, vital job, social life, loves the wife and kiddies...probably even more than high-value consumer goods, more than cars, more than kettles. He's just so dull. And I think the intrepid Mr. McEwan wants us to like him. I don't think we're supposed to be urging Baxter and cohorts to knife these godawful people while they still have the chance.

Boyd Tonkin, at the Indie, had a bit of a kvetch over "middlebrow" stuff getting undue recognition while raving about Saturday's faliure to make the top table. Funnily I've long thought McEwan one of the most middlebrow writers in England
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Old 10th Dec 2009, 9:19   #320
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Default Re: Ian McEwan

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Originally Posted by Hinton
B.S. Johnson, suicided, obscure despite an award-nominated biography by Jonathan Coe
Award-winning! (2005 Samuel Johnson prize for non-fiction) And yes, anything that Giles Coren dislikes is a good thing in my book.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hinton
wealth-porn
Spot on. Also with the hateful offspring. I do remember groaning audibly when McEwan felt that a plausible name for Theo's band would be New Blue Rider. Even typing it makes my toes curl.

As to the unqualified praise he seems to attract in some of the press, I observe only that his wife used to be review editor of the Guardian.
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