Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Enduring Ian

I want to note, before more time passes, how wonderful Ian McEwan is.

Quite by chance (meaning: spending my lunch hour browsing at the McGill University Bookstore), a few weeks back already, I came upon Enduring Love. I read the first page, then the second, right there in the store, and the third. A sure sign. The book must come home with me.

It reads so smoothly. It's all very mature and reasonable. There's nothing superfluous or false in McEwan's writing.

Plus it's a gripping story. I do have to track down the movie that's based on it (starring Daniel Craig no less).

There are some similarities with Saturday (the only other McEwan I'd previously read). A protagonist with a scientific bent. Actions, reactions, put under a microscope. Makes everything feel objective. Coolly analytical. Believable and true.

So I read it quick, then ran out to find another. I came home with Chesil Beach. I read that, and loved it too.

Her going-away dress was of a light summer cotton in cornflower blue, a perfect match for her shoes, and discovered only after many pavement hours between Regent Street and Marble Arch, thankfully without her mother. When Edward drew Florence into his embrace, it was not to kiss her, but first to press her body against his, and then to put a hand on her nape and feel for the zip of this dress. His other hand was flat and firm against the small of her back, and he was whispering in her ear, so loudly, so closely that she heard only a roar of warm moist air. But the zip could not be unfastened with one hand alone, at least, not for the first inch or two. You had to hold the top of the dress straight with one hand while pulling down, otherwise the fine material would bunch and snag. She would have reached over her shoulder to help, but her arms were trapped, and besides, it did not seem right, showing him what to do. Above all, she did not wish to hurt his feelings. With a sharp sigh, he tugged harder at the zip, trying to force it, but the point had already been reached when it would move neither down nor up. For the moment, she was trapped inside her dress.

"Oh God, Flo. Just keep still, will you."

Obediently, she froze, horrified by the agitation in his voice, automatically certain that it was her fault. It was, after all, her dress, her zip. It might have helped, she thought, to get free and turn her back, and move nearer the window for the light. But that could appear unaffectionate, and the interruption would admit to the scale of the problem. At home she relied on her sister, who was clever with her fingers. Despite her abysmal piano playing. Their mother had no patience for small things. Poor Edward — she felt on her shoulders tremors of effort along his arms as he brought both hands into play, and she imagined his thick fingers fumbling between the folds of pinched cloth and obstinate metal. She was sorry for him, and she was a little frightened of him too. To make even a timid suggestion might enrage him further. So she stood patiently, until at last he freed himself from her with a groan and stepped back.

So sad, this book. But beautiful.

[I'm reminded of Richard Powers, because of the science and the music. The feeling of reading them is similar. Like McEwan is Powers distilled to less than a couple hundred pages. Or Powers is McEwan given heavier flesh.]

I'd be reading more McEwan now if I hadn't received a certain book in particular that's demanding all my attention (I mean, apart from regular life).

I even bought a copy of Atonement, the movie, for my mom, on the assumption we'd settle in to watch it Easter weekend, and this would satisfy, a quick fix to hold me over till I got my hands on another McEwan novel. But alas, there was no time.

All this simply to say that Ian McEwan is wonderful.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree completely (for me, Atonement is his masterpiece, but I love all his works and instantly buy each one in hardback the minute it is out - an accolade given to no other author!).

However, I found the film of this book very weak, despite Daniel C.

(The film of Atonement, to my surprise, I enjoyed very much and found intensely moving. My only gripe was the "typewriter music" soundtrack in the earlier sections.)