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Evie
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Joined: 24 Oct 2008
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Location: Kenilworth, Warwickshire, UK

PostPosted: Mon Apr 12, 2010 1:20 pm    Post subject: Ian McEwan  Reply with quote

Did anyone else see the South Bank Show last night, which was about Ian McEwan?  I am enjoying some of these SBS Revisited programmes, where we get to see earlier interviews interspersed through a contemporary interview, and can thus see the development of something or someone.

So there were interviews with McEwan from 1978, the 1980s, 2005, all wrapped up in a new interview.  I have not quite finished watching it yet (and I think the last 15 minutes will be missing, because of the football overrunning), but it's very interesting, especially to see how McEwan has mellowed as well as to trace the development of his writing, and how he writes, and to hear him talking about the ideas that influence him.

Good to see Melvyn's hair is as exciting as ever - I expect he dyes it! - in fact seeing him back in 1978 is a reminder that in fact it has got more flamboyant over the years rather than less!  It's quite flat and straight in the early programmes.

I love Ian McEwan's books, though have yet to read anything written earlier than The Child in Time.  I like his writerly interests and the way he infuses novels with ideas without them becoming anything less than novels.  I like the way he pushes literary and psychological boundaries a bit, and despite early misgivings, I like the way he often turns the run of his novels on a dime, using plot devices that are so desperately contrived that they seem at first too unbelievable, but become interesting and satisfying when seen as a self-conscious device, part of the exploration of ideas and the acknowledgement that fiction is artificial and is a place where you can make anything happen, if you do it skilfully enough.

The programme has made me very much want to read Solar, his latest novel - my heart sank a bit when I first read about it and saw that it was about climate change, as it sounded a bit worthy - but hearing about the book on the South Bank Show has given me quite a different idea of what the book is about.  I will wait for the paperback, but am looking forward to reading it.

Would love to hear what others think about Ian McEwan - does he deserve his reputation as one of Britain's most celebrated literary writers?  Do his novels work?  Is his earlier writing better than his later stuff?  etc, etc.  I must read the early books.


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MikeAlx



Joined: 17 Nov 2008
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Location: Seaford, East Sussex

PostPosted: Mon Apr 12, 2010 2:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I like his early short stories, but haven't read much else. I do think he writes nice prose, though - carefully measured prose, with a good ear for rhythm.

The reviews of Solar make me think it's not a book I'd like, not because of 'worthiness', but because it seems rather a fudge to tackle the enormous and serious question of climate change by examining the microcosm of the marital infidelities and general selfishness and gluttony of a certain type of man. It's a bit like: "Right, how can we tackle this new, big topic in the novel form? I know - by using exactly the same framework we've always used to examine modern manners and morals." Of course, it's unfair to form too strong an opinion on the basis of reviews alone - but in reality, given limited time, one has to decide what to read and what not to read somehow.



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Chibiabos83
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Joined: 19 Nov 2008
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Location: Cambridge, UK

PostPosted: Mon Apr 12, 2010 2:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, you know already I'm a lover of McEwan, at least most of the time. I've not yet encountered anyone who loves his books without reservation. Everyone seems to have at least one they have hated, normally Amsterdam but in my case his embarrassing children's book The Daydreamer. He's not a writer who has ever inspired me to rush out and buy a new book hot off the press, but then no living writer does that, most of my favourites being long dead, and it must be a measure of the esteem in which I hold him that I have read about half of the books he has produced.

Nothing he's written since The Child in Time, which is nearly 20 years old now, has impressed me as much as that book, and I love his early works perhaps the best of all - the short stories in First Love, Last Rites and his debut novel The Cement Garden. I found Atonement very impressive, though, particularly the clever final conceit, which didn't bother me nearly as much as it clearly does some others. I don't think I ever get caught up in a novel to the extent that I believe I am reading about actual people, and so I rather like knowing (cheeky?) authorial interventions like those one finds in Atonement or The French Lieutenant's Woman.

The little I've read about Solar makes it sound rather fun, though I'll probably wait for word of mouth from someone I trust before reading it myself.

I saw a bit of the programme last night while I was flicking in and out of Brian de Palma's Scarface and thought it looked interesting. If you've missed the end it may be available online. ITV has its own version of iPlayer called, imaginatively, ITV Player. I used it once and was irritated by its insistence that I not skip the adverts, but perhaps that has been remedied.


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Evie
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Joined: 24 Oct 2008
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Location: Kenilworth, Warwickshire, UK

PostPosted: Mon Apr 12, 2010 2:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, I have never bothered with the non-BBC versions of catch-up TV, but I should have a go.  I rarely even bother with iplayer - it's only TV after all - but at least that's all easy to use and advert-free and both the C4 and ITV ones I looked at ages ago didn't seem worth the effort.  And I hate watching TV on my computer, so that's another disincentive - I think I got enough out of the South Bank Show that I don't need the last 10 minutes.  

Good to see Melv still going strong, anyway, despite the fact that they have tried to pension him off.  Last I heard, he was in negotations with the BBC, which would be great.

As for the real purpose of this thread (!) - I too liked the conceit at the end of Atonement, which made up for some of the other longeurs of the book (for me) - the middle section I found disappointing.  You know my thoughts on Amsterdam, so I won't repeat them, though I may try the book again one day, in the light of your views!

Child in Time also remains the most impressive, for me, though I did love Saturday.


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Chibiabos83
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 12, 2010 2:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh, don't bother with Amsterdam again. You're probably right. I was callow, credulous and impressionable when I read it, not the grizzled, world-weary cynic you see today.


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vivinfrance



Joined: 15 Apr 2010
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Location: Normandy

PostPosted: Thu Apr 15, 2010 2:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm new on here, so I hope it's OK just to plunge in.

McEwan is one of my favourites modern authors, and the book I enjoyed the most was Saturday, so I was surprised that it provoked such enormous controversy in our Readers/Writers Circle.  One member denied that it was even a novel!  McEwan's gift for me is in his straightforward storytelling.



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Chibiabos83
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 15, 2010 2:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Welcome to the board! I hope you'll feel at home here.


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vivinfrance



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PostPosted: Thu Apr 15, 2010 2:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thankyou Chibiabos (what a fascinating pseudonym!).



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Chibiabos83
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 15, 2010 2:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just a Longfellow reference (I think Chibiabos is "Pliant as a wand of willow" among other things, which is not appropriate for me at all) and the year of my birth. Your own name seems more matter-of-fact Smile


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Evie
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 15, 2010 3:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Viv!  Hello!  How lovely to see you.

I loved Saturday too - and fail to see how it could be accused of not being a novel!  I know some people think he overresearches some of his novels, but I didn't think that was the case with Saturday, it was all intrinsic to the rest of the novel.  I loved Henry Perowne, and was really sad when the novel ended, as I wanted to follow him into the next day!

Though in terms of the South Bank Show interview, I could have lived without the film of the brain surgery, fascinating though it was!  I am a bit squeamish when it comes to people having their heads sawn open...



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