Saturday, February 18, 2006
Smug literary bastard, yesterday.
Right now I'm living it up in the unparalleled luxury of the Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi, Chiang Mai. This place has to be seen to be believed. I mean, I've heard of hotels where you get your own butler, and plunge pool, and piano (and you get all of those here); but this place also offers you your own private paddy field, with picturesque peasants.
Now that's six star. 'How did you find the peasants?' 'Not bad. Can I have some cotton pickers, too?' I might blog about this extraordinary hotel later.
Anyway, before I come across as the smuggest git in history (whoops, too late), I've encountered someone even smugger than me - Ian McEwan.
When I say encounter, I mean in print. I've been reading McEwan's novel Saturday, - and what a pile of trite, foolish, self-regarding bollocks it is. McEwan is a brilliant stylist, and has written some good novels and excellent short stories, but he comes close to ruining his reputation with this emetic tale.
For those that don't know it, I'll give you a quick rundown: it describes one day in the life of a brilliant brain surgeon, who has a beautiful published poet for a daughter, and a handsome megastar blues guitarist for a son, and a distinguished London lawyer for a wife, and a famous writer for a father-in-law, and a Howard Hodgkin painting in his enormous sitting room and a fabulous and plentiful sex life (with his beautiful wife) and a pleasantly agonised and finely wrought conscience about all the important things that stupid people don't have time to fret about. Etc.
You get the picture? Now, I know that McEwan's defence here is that he wanted to create a smug and complacent character, to see how happiness works and how it can be threatened, it's just that this smug and complacent character shares so many of McEwan's own personal traits and characteristics - not least a narcissistic atheism and a good game of squash and a great big house in Fitzrovia and a total lack of humour - you can't help thinking that McEwan has let himself slip into this cruddy book, this unfunny contrivance, this cowpat of liberal angst, this big warm bucket of Blairite novelistic spit.
You need proof? OK, here's two more things before I ask the Cambodian butler to peel me another mango. The central plot twist of the novel depends on a naked girl persuading a nutter not to rape her - and how does she do this? By reciting Matthew Arnold's poem Dover Beach. The sex murderer is so touched by the poem he tells her to put her clothes back on.
Er, right. Yup. Nice one Ian. I'll remember that next time I'm in Peckham and about to be mugged by a knife weilding maniac on yabba - just whip out the old Oxford anthology, and give them a bit of Milton, or maybe some early Tennyson, and bob's yer uncle.
Further proof that McEwan has seriously lost his way (he used to write good sex) is his sex writing in Saturday. Try this sample from near the end (husband and wife are banging away, yet again):
'Their appetites are noisy, their manners are rough. They can't quite trust their luck, they want all they can get in a short time. They also know that at the end, after they've reclaimed each other, is the promise of oblivion.
At one point she whispers to him, '"My darling one. We could have been killed and we're alive.'
"My darling one"???
Posted by sean at 9:20 am