Apr 4, 2010
The new Ian McEwan: watch me be someone else
Three "vaguely"s in the first 15 pages of the new Ian McEwan. "He belonged to that class of en — vaguely unprepossessing, often bald, fat, short, clever..." "vaguely weary of himself, bereft of alternatives..." "he read about it, vaguely deplored it, and expected governments to meet and take action..." I think that's how you know it's a comic novel: the way McEwan keeps putting the brakes on his own descriptive powers in order to better approximate the fuzzy prejudices of his fat, bald, short, clever protagonist. No jokes yet. A lot of physics and a lot of 3rd person interior monologue, though. Aren't comedies supposed to be a bit more embedded? McEwan does a good job of animating someone with whom he has little sympathy (climate denier, dislikes novels) but as with Saturday, that is exactly what it feels like: an attempt to get under the skin of his antagonists. But would those antagonists really spend so much time thinking about their opposition to McEwanesque ideas and interests? Wouldn't they more likely be completely indifferent? There's a kind of reverse solipsism at work here, no less pervasive for being so subtle, as if McEwan were saying: watch me be someone else! It's the Method approach to novel writing: initially lifelike, then too studied, and ultimately self-conscious.