literary categories

July 12, 2019

 

Ian McEwan on literary categories:

I think that the novel — and I think we should usually talk about ‘the novel’ rather than ‘the literary novel’ or ‘the science fiction novel’ — but the novel is a very good means of examining colossal social change, but also of [examining] the moral dilemmas that new technologies are going to make us confront. I think there could be a resurgence, a revitalization, of the form, in which — quite possibly — concepts and categories of ‘literary’ novels up against ‘science fiction’ novels will completely vanish, because we’ll need the technical grasp of technologies that the best science fiction yields to us, and we’ll need the traditional examinations of moral dilemmas that the literary novel has always prided itself upon. So I look forward to these categories just dissolving.

Ian McEwan
WIRED 4th April 2019

a view of Skye

Ancestors, distant relatives and the past really were not part of my sense of family as I grew up. Something of my father’s exile from Scotland – self-exile really – and then exile from Great Britain, has rubbed off on me and probably affected the way I write. When I started writing, I didn’t feel that I was quite part of the English literary world or its systems of class or whatever – I always felt something of an outsider in it. That’s faded over the years, but I think it has made quite an impression on me, this sense of not being deeply connected to all the branches and roots of family. I could make a narrative of my writing which goes something like this: that I began as a kind of existential writer, much more interested in casting characters almost, as it were, outside of history and outside of identifiable places, and as the years have gone by I’ve become perhaps a more traditional writer, or at least a writer much more aware – consciously, expressively aware – of the traditions of the English novel, the treasures that are laid up for us by the great 19th-century expositors of character and psychology. And so the gap between my early short stories and a novel like Atonement, with its country house – a novel that looks partly back over its shoulder towards Jane Austen, but also back towards the hallowed traditions of Agatha Christie and crime novels, in that you set up a scene, you have a stranger arrive and everything follows from that. So there’s an enormous gap from Atonement to the earliest short stories with their very dispossessed, alienated characters who are living in a city with no name, often in a time that’s not fixed.

Ian McEwan
On writing: authors reveal the secrets of their craft
The Guardian, 26th March 2011

More writing advice…

August 21, 2015

Her startling whiteness…

August 14, 2015

panties

Now and then, an inch below the water’s surface, the muscles of his stomach tightened involuntarily as he recalled another detail. A drop of water on her upper arm. Wet. An embroidered flower, a simple daisy, sewn between the cups of her bra. Her breasts wide apart and small. On her back, a mole half covered by a strap. When she climbed out of the pond a glimpse of the triangular darkness her knickers were supposed to conceal. Wet. He saw it, he made himself see it again. The way her pelvic bones stretched the material clear of the skin, the deep curve of her waist, her startling whiteness. When she reached for her skirt, a carelessly raised foot revealed a patch of soil on each pad of her sweetly diminished toes. Another mole the size of a farthing on her thigh and something purplish on her calf–a strawberry mark, a scar. Not blemishes. Adornments.

Ian McEwan
Atonement