Draw me a what’s-it cube
- BuySweet Tooth by Ian McEwan
Cape, 323 pp, £18.99, August 2012, ISBN 978 0 224 09737 6
A penis in pickle, and a dreadful wife made to vanish into another dimension by means of an esoteric yoga pose. A narrator who rapes and murders his wife, gratified that the two climaxes coincide (‘I came as she died. That much I can say with pride. I know her death was a moment of intense pleasure to her’). When he wakes up he vomits on the corpse, a reflex of horror and remorse that amounts to a further assault. Ian McEwan’s first reputation (in the 1970s) was as a writer of scrupulously perverse short stories, an output which placed him in a loose grouping with Martin Amis, labelled the ‘neo-nasties’. The nastiness has long since been disowned though the occasional glint of relished cruelty survives – a body part under the furniture in Enduring Love, an almost witty bomb blast in Atonement – to prevent the reader from feeling too cosy.
Vol. 34 No. 19 · 11 October 2012
From Brian Rotman
Near the end of Adam Mars-Jones’s review of Ian McEwan’s Sweet Tooth, whose heroine is a mathematician, I tripped over a sentence beginning ‘Sweet Tooth is the narrative equivalent of a Möbius Strip or Klein Bottle, the first a real object, the second an imaginary one, capable of representation in two dimensions but not three’ (LRB, 13 September). As the heroine of the novel, were she less imaginary, would immediately tell him, the Strip and the Bottle are both two-dimensional surfaces with the former needing three dimensions of Euclidean space to be represented, while the latter, a more complex topological object, requires four such dimensions – which, among other things, makes it impossible to drink from it. Trying to think its (lack of an) ‘inside’ doubtless played a part in prompting E.A. Abbott to invent his fantasy Flatland, in which two-dimensional creatures try to imagine a sphere.
Ohio State University, Columbus