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John Bayley, 7 January 1988

The Collected Stories of Angus Wilson 
Secker, 414 pp., £12.95, November 1987, 0 436 57612 0Show More
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... stories written now in England or America – for example, those of Joyce Carol Oates or Ian McEwan. Indeed, there seems to be a whole genre of repulsive literature in our time written by mild, serious, high-minded people who strike one as not so much indulging in personal fantasies as producing the kind of things that they feel ought to be ...

Rachel and Heather

Stephen Wall, 1 October 1987

A Friend from England 
by Anita Brookner.
Cape, 205 pp., £9.95, August 1987, 0 224 02443 4
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The New Confessions 
by William Boyd.
Hamish Hamilton, 462 pp., £11.95, September 1987, 0 241 12383 6
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The Colour of Blood 
by Brian Moore.
Cape, 182 pp., £10.95, September 1987, 0 224 02513 9
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... against her. Her rout – in the city of many previous literary defeats, from James himself to Ian McEwan – is a reversal that brilliantly catches up and concludes the various narrative strands that the novel has so deftly kept in play. Initially we have been led to assume, as Rachel herself does, that she is in control and reliable, but our ...

In Service

Anthony Thwaite, 18 May 1989

The Remains of the Day 
by Kazuo Ishiguro.
Faber, 245 pp., £10.99, May 1989, 0 571 15310 0
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I served the King of England 
by Bohumil Hrabal, translated by Paul Wilson.
Chatto, 243 pp., £12.95, May 1989, 0 7011 3462 3
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Beautiful Mutants 
by Deborah Levy.
Cape, 90 pp., £9.95, May 1989, 0 224 02651 8
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When the monster dies 
by Kate Pullinger.
Cape, 173 pp., £10.95, May 1989, 9780224026338
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The Colour of Memory 
by Geoff Dyer.
Cape, 228 pp., £11.95, May 1989, 0 224 02585 6
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Sexual Intercourse 
by Rose Boyt.
Cape, 160 pp., £10.95, May 1989, 0 224 02666 6
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The Children’s Crusade 
by Rebecca Brown.
Picador, 121 pp., £10.95, March 1989, 0 330 30529 8
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... Julian Gloag’s Our Mother’s House in her childhood, and I suspect she has become an admirer of Ian McEwan since then. In the brochure which Cape has published to accompany the four books, she comments: ‘I am aware that Sexual Intercourse is an uncomfortable book. It’s not meant to be a cosy read. It’s a book about family life, a subject I find ...

Whitlam Fictions

Zachary Leader, 16 February 1989

Kisses of the Enemy 
by Rodney Hall.
Faber, 622 pp., £12.95, January 1989, 0 571 15091 8
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Postcards from Surfers 
by Helen Garner.
Bloomsbury, 180 pp., £11.95, January 1989, 0 7475 0272 2
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Forty-Seventeen 
by Frank Moorhouse.
Faber, 175 pp., £10.95, August 1988, 0 571 15210 4
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... in Australia in 1983. At the heart of this novella, whose disturbing power recalls the fiction of Ian McEwan and Christina Stead, lies a family on the brink of collapse. Dexter and Athena, the parents, can barely bring themselves to check that their children are asleep at night before abandoning them in their beds to roam the streets of suburban ...

Where mine is at

Gordon Burn, 28 May 1992

Outerbridge Reach 
by Robert Stone.
Deutsch, 409 pp., £14.99, May 1992, 0 223 98774 3
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... for novelists to acknowledge their sources. At the beginning of The Child in Time, for example, Ian McEwan lists Christina Hardyment’s Dream Babies, David Bohm’s Wholeness and the Implicate Order and Joseph Chilton Pearce’s Magical Child. In Time’s Arrow, Martin Amis acknowledges, among a number of others, Robert Jay Lifton’s The Nazi ...

The Lie-World

James Wood: D.B.C. Pierre, 20 November 2003

Vernon God Little 
by D.B.C. Pierre.
Faber, 279 pp., £10.99, January 2003, 0 571 21642 0
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... is that novels without much plot tend to languish. Suddenly everything should be shorter, even Ian McEwan. More troubling was Professor Carey’s opinion that Nick Hornby’s How to Be Good is ‘a very impressive novel of ideas’, just the kind of thing the Booker should favour. Ah, that would explain the exclusion of Coetzee’s novel of ...

Mortal on Hooch

William Fiennes: Alan Warner, 30 July 1998

The Sopranos 
by Alan Warner.
Cape, 336 pp., £9.99, June 1998, 0 224 05108 3
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... had exactly the same dénouement. The first section of that novel borrowed much of its action from Ian McEwan (the body kept in the house in The Cement Garden; the corpse cut up into pieces in The Innocent). These Demented Lands revisits the weird island setting of John Banville’s Ghosts. One section of The Sopranos is laid out as a screenplay, which ...

Eat Caviar

Daniel Soar: Rubem Fonseca’s Cunning Stories, 26 February 2009

‘The Taker’ and Other Stories 
by Rubem Fonseca, translated by Clifford Landers.
Open Letter, 166 pp., $15.95, November 2008, 978 1 934824 02 3
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... Others are driven by something like fear: in much British fiction of the 1980s and 1990s – in Ian McEwan or Martin Amis, say – the poor or their representatives erupt like an insistent dream into middle-class life as stalkers or thugs. Fonseca also writes about stalkers and thugs, but from both worlds at once. And all that can reliably be said ...

In a Tuft of Thistle

Robert Crawford: Borges is Coming, 16 December 2021

Borges and Me: An Encounter 
by Jay Parini.
Canongate, 299 pp., £14.99, August, 978 1 83885 022 7
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... North American reviewers treated it as straightforward memoir; others regarded it as a novel. Ian McEwan rightly sees it as a ‘Borgesian marriage of fiction and history’. ‘Ulrikke’, a story Borges wrote around the time of his visit, features a passionate encounter with a Norwegian woman as the narrator travels ‘towards Edinburgh’; as many ...

How’s the Empress?

James Wood: Graham Swift, 17 April 2003

The Light of Day 
by Graham Swift.
Hamish Hamilton, 244 pp., £16.99, February 2003, 0 241 14204 0
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... Folkestone tradition: Eliot with Margate in The Waste Land, Pinter with Sidcup in The Caretaker, McEwan with Dollis Hill in The Innocent. Graham Swift knows all about such effects, and knows – as Pinter does – that they will probably now be self-conscious, deliberate dives into the sublime banal. Nowadays a novelist’s characters may themselves be ...

The Slightest Sardine

James Wood: A literary dragnet, 20 May 2004

The Oxford English Literary History. Vol. XII: 1960-2000: The Last of England? 
by Randall Stevenson.
Oxford, 624 pp., £30, February 2004, 0 19 818423 9
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... readers, encouraged some novelists almost to usurp the short story’s usual dimensions. When Ian McEwan moved on from short-story writing, it was to produce a first "novel", The Cement Garden (1978), not much in excess of one hundred pages.’ Ah, so that is why McEwan’s novels are so short. What layers of ...

Diary

Sameer Rahim: British Muslims react to the London bombings, 18 August 2005

... through tough times. The brothers’ parents joined us and we watched the evening news together. Ian Blair, the commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, was at a mosque saying that ‘only communities can stop terrorism.’ Their mother pointed to the Muslim cleric standing behind him. ‘Look at what’s on his head,’ she said giggling, ‘it’s too ...

Micro-Shock

Adam Mars-Jones: Kazuo Ishiguro, 5 March 2015

The Buried Giant 
by Kazuo Ishiguro.
Faber, 345 pp., £20, March 2015, 978 0 571 31503 1
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... were published with two sets of covers to fit the self-images of two overlapping readerships, Ian McEwan’s The Daydreamer, marketed domestically as a children’s book, could be published in Italian translation as for adults. The Young Adult label has a faintly disparaging though illogical overtone (would anyone want to be described as an old ...

Hairy Fairies

Rosemary Hill: Angela Carter, 10 May 2012

A Card from Angela Carter 
by Susannah Clapp.
Bloomsbury, 106 pp., £10, February 2012, 978 1 4088 2690 4
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... enjoys. It was arguably a return to the form that best suited her imagination, well described by Ian McEwan as both ‘fastidious and sensual’, by giving it constraints to work against. For Carter ‘the really important thing’ was narrative, as she said in the introduction to Expletives Deleted, a collection of essays and reviews which appeared ...

Retripotent

Frank Kermode: B. S. Johnson, 5 August 2004

Like a Fiery Elephant: The Story of B.S. Johnson 
by Jonathan Coe.
Picador, 486 pp., £20, June 2004, 9780330350488
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‘Trawl’, ‘Albert Angelo’ and ‘House Mother Normal’ 
by B.S. Johnson.
Picador, 472 pp., £14.99, June 2004, 0 330 35332 2
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... have gone in for ‘experiment’, from James, Ford and Conrad and Joyce to, say, Golding and Ian McEwan. Lawrence saw how much might be done in a novel, how free it could be of constraints, how apt to the business of making it new; the novel was protean, insisting on its own virtually infinite possibilities, experimental in its very nature. Johnson ...

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