Tuesday, June 19, 2007

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan

My feelings about Ian McEwan are complicated. I really enjoy his characters – that is the most important element of a good story to me. However, his sometimes tedious attention to details irks me. He spent several pages describing the sensation of a wayward pubic hair. On the other hand, his description of love as “not a steady state, but a matter of fresh surges or waves” (152) was spot on. I had the same feeling after reading Atonement and Saturday. This week I received no less than three journals which gave this novel “mixed” reviews. Maybe I am in the mainstream after all. According to my usual method, I will go back and read those reviews in their entirety.
These reviews were in The Times (London) Literary Supplement, The London Review of Books, The New Yorker, and The New York Times Book Review. I know what I am going to see there, and it will leave me perplexed as usual. The funny thing is, I can not stop reading McEwan no matter what. This novel reminds me of the short story by Henry James, “The Beast in the Jungle.” Lives and loves wasted by inaction and an inability to express the deepest, innermost feelings. Been there, done that, and I am glad I learned the lesson and had a second chance to get it right!
PS: Reading was made even more difficult because I spilled a particularly fine bottle of Bordeaux and stained the bottom edge of most of the pages. I think a return trip to the bookstore for another copy is in order. Go figure.
--Chiron, 6/19/07

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