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Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Malcolm Gladwell, 4 December 2008

... Last month, Ian McEwan announced that we have eight years left to save the planet from global warming. The timeframe seems to be based less on the scientific evidence than on the audacious hope that Obama’s administration will avert the impending environmental catastrophe. McEwan acknowledged that ‘within the climate science community there is a faction darkly murmuring that it is already too late,’ but stood by the ‘majority view’ that doom won’t be certain until Obama leaves the White House ...

Sexy Robots

Ian Patterson: ‘Machines Like Me’, 9 May 2019

Machines like Me 
by Ian McEwan.
Cape, 305 pp., £18.99, April 2019, 978 1 78733 166 2
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... a very short story by Diane Williams which came into my mind while I was reading Machines like Me, Ian McEwan’s 15th novel. It’s called ‘Machinery’ and it’s 104 words long. It ends: ‘For some idea of the full range of tools at his disposal, one would have to know what human longings are all about, a calm voice says calmly.’ ...

Short Cuts

Yun Sheng: ‘Finnegans Wake’ in China, 3 April 2014

... When the first instalment of Finnegans Wake appeared in Chinese, the Guardian reported that ‘Ian McEwan … is considered pretty buzzy in translation, but the print run of Atonement was only 5000 copies.’ True, but a first run of 5000 to 8000 is common practice in China’s publishing industry: nobody wants the risk of accumulating inventory. In ...

Diary

Frank Kermode: Being a critic, 27 May 1999

... sadly not for very long, you could make your way to the Pillars of Hercules in Greek Street, where Ian Hamilton, editor of the New Review, was usually to be found. The suppliants, mostly young men not then long out of the universities, have very properly combined to congratulate the sage or gaffer on his 60th birthday.* Some of them got their first chance in ...

Playing with terror

Christopher Ricks, 21 January 1982

The Comfort of Strangers 
by Ian McEwan.
Cape, 134 pp., £5.95, October 1981, 0 224 01931 7
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... Ian McEwan’s tale is as economical as a shudder. It never itself shudders, which is one reason why it makes you do so. By staying cool in the face of the murderous madness which it contemplates, it precipitates an icy sweat. What it does even with equanimity is not to display it. A characteristic McEwan sentence is one of which it might be said (here in Venice revisited) that the law allows it and the court awards it ...

N.V. Rampant meets Martin Amis

N.V. Rampant, 18 October 1984

... bathroom I had noticed that the bidet was full of signed first editions of books by Julian Barnes, Ian McEwan and other members of the most powerful literary mafia to hit London since old Dr Ben Johnson ruled the roost. When I carried Martin through into the kitchen for that so-long-delayed welcoming drink, the refrigerator was full of French ...

A Knife at the Throat

Christopher Tayler: Meticulously modelled, 3 March 2005

Saturday 
by Ian McEwan.
Cape, 280 pp., £17.99, February 2005, 0 224 07299 4
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... Ian McEwan’s vividly and meticulously imagined novels often focus on characters whose imaginations are either unwholesomely vivid or dryly meticulous. At one end of the spectrum lurk the sex murderers in The Comfort of Strangers (1981), Robert and Caroline, whose actions lead their victim’s girlfriend to surmise that ‘the imagination, the sexual imagination’, embodies ‘a powerful single organising principle’ which distorts ‘all relations, all truth ...

The View from the Passenger Seat

Lorna Sage: Gilbert Adair, 1 January 1998

The Key of the Tower 
by Gilbert Adair.
Secker, 190 pp., £12.99, October 1997, 0 436 20429 0
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... that when the literary father-figures he has in mind turn out to be Martin Amis, Julian Barnes and Ian McEwan, it’s hard to believe him. Father’s ghost has to be grander. And he is. Adair the novelist’s true problem, which Amis notoriously shares, is with Nabokov. Adair’s 1990 novel, Love and Death on Long Island, ‘currently’, according to his ...

Men in White

Benjamin Kunkel: Another Ian McEwan!, 17 July 2008

Netherland 
by Joseph O’Neill.
Fourth Estate, 247 pp., £14.99, May 2008, 978 0 00 726906 8
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... retrieved from Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal), and he wants to adapt this mode – its exemplar is Ian McEwan – to the American soil of the book’s themes or subject matter: multicultural brotherhood, immigrant self-fashioning in the New World, post-9/11 New York. This compact novel, in which an emotionally buttoned-down new arrival recounts the ...

Megalo

R.W. Johnson, 9 March 1995

The State We’re In 
by Will Hutton.
Cape, 352 pp., £16.99, January 1995, 0 224 03688 2
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... economics editor, has produced a book which is part show-biz – it carries a passionate puff from Ian McEwan on the front cover and leapt straight into the bestseller list – and part political event: it clearly aims to provide a sweeping economic and political platform for Labour, has been elaborated with the help of Tony Blair’s adviser, David ...

Thatcherschaft

Nicholas Spice, 1 October 1987

The Child in Time 
by Ian McEwan.
Cape, 220 pp., £10.95, September 1987, 9780224024990
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The Book and the Brotherhood 
by Iris Murdoch.
Chatto, 601 pp., £11.95, September 1987, 0 7011 3251 5
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... the fanatic left-wing soul – that we have, for the time being at least, left behind. Meanwhile McEwan, setting his novel several years into the future of the Thatcherite epoch, that timeless ‘on and on’ of which our leader herself has spoken, seems especially prescient and up-to-the-minute. Such are the risks of writing political fiction in democratic ...

Half-Timbering, Homosexuality and Whingeing

Ian Sansom: Julian Barnes, 1 October 1998

England, England 
by Julian Barnes.
Cape, 272 pp., £15.99, September 1998, 0 224 05275 6
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... of the most brilliant metaphors make Barnes more like Alan Bennett than he is like Martin Amis or Ian McEwan. Indeed, on page 71 of England, England the following serio-ludicro simile suddenly unfurls: It’s like looking for the tag to unwrap a CD. You know that feeling? There’s a coloured strip running all the way round, and you can see what’s ...

In the Company of Confreres

Terry Eagleton: ‘Modern British Fiction’, 12 December 2002

On Modern British Fiction 
edited by Zachary Leader.
Oxford, 328 pp., £14.99, October 2002, 0 19 924932 6
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... they yobs. The volume reprints a moving, excruciatingly honest piece by the distinctly unladdish Ian McEwan about his working-class mother, which only a writer of McEwan’s emotional stringency could have saved from being sentimental. As a woman who ‘never owned the language she spoke’, she communicated this ...

In the Body Bag

Adam Mars-Jones: Ian McEwan’s ‘Nutshell’, 6 October 2016

Nutshell 
by Ian McEwan.
Cape, 198 pp., £16.99, September 2016, 978 1 911214 33 5
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... above the lip – this explains the philtrum – and wipes its mind clean. The unborn narrator of Ian McEwan’s new novel, Nutshell, isn’t omniscient but has formidable mental powers, able to analyse, synthesise and, necessarily, use language. He also has tastes, preferences, opinions, all of which logically depend on something he hasn’t ...

Gaiety

Frank Kermode, 8 June 1995

Angus Wilson 
by Margaret Drabble.
Secker, 714 pp., £20, May 1995, 0 436 20038 4
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... It is instructive to see such men sketched, as they are here, solely in their relation to Wilson. Ian Calder, for example, had been one of Wilson’s lovers. He was a brilliant and charming young man – not, perhaps, quite the Adonis, the nonpareil, he is here made out to be, but found fascinating by everybody. Miraculously free of ill-will, he was ...

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