Tag Archives: Ian McEwan

Another reason to love the New Yorker

30 Nov

I am thankful for … this interactive feature with portraits of world leaders. Platon took them earlier this year when they came to New York for the U.N.

Take a look at the intro page. At the risk of being cliché, the first thing I noticed was the preponderance of male faces. Obviously, it’s no secret that most of the world’s leaders are men, yadda yadda, but this visual presentation drove the point home more for me—more than any statistics.

And: I haven’t read this yet, but this week’s fiction is by Ian McEwan. That makes the rain feel a less dreary.

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Best text message ever.

24 Nov

On Saturday night I went to see my friend Lan’s incredible performance at Postcrypt. I gave a copy of this book to a friend to hold while I took a picture of Lan.

It’s unclear what happened next. All I know is that about an hour later, I was sitting in a car when I realized it was gone. I worried. Because, dense as it may be, Chaucerian Theatricality has a similar theoretical basis to my planned project. So it’s pretty important.

Maybe one minute after I spoke to my friend (she didn’t know where it was), I got the following text from an amazing person: “Are you perchance missing your copy of chaucerian theatricality? i swear i’m not a stalker. i read your blog and there’s a copy on the steps…”

And now I have it back! The book didn’t even have my name in it. I’m reading it right now. Thank you thank you thank you.

And heeeeere’s Lan:

Oh, and even though I have approximately 99999 other things to do, I started McEwan’s Between the Sheets. A short story collection is good for me at the moment—as a break from novels, and as I try to understand the form and craft. So far I’ve read the first two stories. They’re sort of Cement Gardenish. Otherwise they’re different from the McEwan novels I’ve read. (They’re also much better: less over-plotting).

Anyway, back to reading. Ganim.

On the other hand?

30 Jun

Dare I proceed with On Chesil Beach?

Says the NYT Book Review,

After two big, ambitious novels — “Atonement” and “Saturday” — Ian McEwan has inexplicably produced a small, sullen, unsatisfying story that possesses none of those earlier books’ emotional wisdom, narrative scope or lovely specificity of detail.

Or should I start something else? Sigh.

Saturday (but really it’s Monday)

30 Jun

So there you have it, today was sort of boring. I sat at the desk waiting to be sent out on assignment, and it seemed little was coming my way. Until about 4:45, an hour before my shift ends, that is, when I was told to look into a pedestrian hit by a car close to the office. (Bad timing–a bunch of Spec stuff came up around then). It was outside of a huge event concerning food, so it would have been a big deal, but a kindly hot dog vendor told me that a car hit a biker—he suggested a food delivery boy was hit—but both had left shortly after the collision. Meaning no big deal. So there went the day. I hate that I’m forced to connect the dots this way, but no injury, no byline. Which is good. (The no injury part). Then I went to dinner and a movie with a friend, which was relaxing.

Some more thoughts on Saturday: It took me awhile to get into the head of Henry Perowne. McEwan tells the story of this neurosurgeon’s day—from inside Perowne’s head, but not in first person—in about 300 pages. It took me about 50 slow pages. Perhaps these are the pages that caused a friend to recommend it to me as a “project book.” But once you get into the rhythms and neuroses of Perowne, you internalize his thinking, his speech, and the rest of the book flows organically. You find yourself, as ignorant to the field as you may be, making psychological observations of adversaries along with the protagonist—this alone, the pull towards empathy, is narrative magic. Perowne often describes actions such as swimming, surgery, and sex as enjoyable because each is an entry into a different, unique medium. Past the beginning, the book felt like that. An immersion in a different medium.

By the time I finished, I was riveted. The pacing is brilliant. Pages are only minutes of Perowne’s life, but the flow works. Little drags. Mostly, though, I was impressed at the depth of character we get. McEwan spends pages on minutes by describing the feelings and memories events conjure up for Perowne, leaving us with a rich portrait of a neurosurgeon. This depth weaves narrative with Perowne’s politics and philosophy. In few words, McEwan/Perowne sums up the spirit of entire generations, and then seamlessly leaps back into a dialogue with his teenage son Theo about the day’s news.

But then I realized, this may be a copout. Based on what I’ve read about the author, Perowne’s views—e.g. on a more superficial level, the pleasure he takes while in the operating studio—seem to align with McEwan’s. Perhaps this novel, much like a book I wrote a paper on recently, is simply McEwan’s philosophical treatise, with bits and shreds of truisms wrapped up and tied in a neat narrative bow in the form of Perowne.

Either way, still a good read. Onward.