Ian McEwan - which one first?

(62 Posts)
AnonYonimousBird Sun 21-Apr-13 11:32:48

I'd really like to read one of his, not sure how I never have.

Which one would be a good one to start me off please?

TIA

BaconAndAvocado Wed 24-Apr-13 15:00:13

I agree he is an excellent writer in terms of craft/technical ability. One of Britain's best

I loved Atonement, Enduring Love and The Cement Garden.

Didn't like Amsterdam orBlack Dogs but still recognise his overall skill, these particular books just weren't for me.

I guess I base whether someone is good or bad depending on whether I enjoy reading their work or not, i.e. it's a 'good' book if I enjoy it, it's a 'crap' book if I didn't. Normally I give a writer the benefit of the doubt & try a few books before dismissing them as crap, however I loathed Atonement with such a passion that I have absolutely no desire to repeat the experience.

However, in my defence, if I am calling someone crap I do tend to add 'in my opinion'. I do also think all the arts have a certain amount of 'emperor's new clothes' about them & no-one wants to be the person who stands up & says 'this is awful', Tracey Emin being a case in point (in my opinion).

TheOriginalSteamingNit Wed 24-Apr-13 15:55:18

I loathe Dickens, I don't enjoy reading his books and I don't appreciate the kind of book he wrote. I would never presume to make the ridiculous judgment based on that that his books are crap. Any more than the fact that I will sometimes guiltily enjoy a Jill Mansell in the bath makes her a good writer grin.

Essays can be marked against a set of specific success criteria though - has the writer supported his/her opinions with relevant and well chosen quotations; has the writer considered a range of critical opinions etc etc. Creative works, on the other hand, can be assessed in terms of if the writer can construct effective sentences / use punctuation effectively etc, but in terms of whether the text works as a whole to engage the reader that can only be measured by the reader response - and whether or not the text works for that reader or not allows them to form an (entirely subjective) decision about whether the text is any good. Trying to make it objective is like trying to assess the merit of an art work by the thickness of the brushstrokes.

TheOriginalSteamingNit Wed 24-Apr-13 19:42:54

No, that reader can offer his/her experience of how engaged they felt with the text, how convincing they found the story, and perhaps how much they felt the text did work to engage them - but their opinions on all of those things aren't an evaluation on how 'well written' the text is.

So your first points about creative works (do they have effective sentences/use punctuation effectively etc) are the ones which are relevant - and are objective - in terms of deciding whether a text is 'well written', and your second are to do with how you would personally assess it.

Of course there can always be debate about how great/effective/significant a text is, but 'well written' and 'poorly written' aren't matters of opinion in the same way.

Does anyone have an example of the poor writing they are thinking of in Ian McEwan, by the way?

MamaMary Wed 24-Apr-13 20:17:46

Solar is not one long 'short story'. It has a plot, a cracking one at that. I think it's his best. Certainly the one that gripped me the most and the only one I can remember much about apart from Atonement but that's cos of the film

Cooroo Thu 25-Apr-13 17:13:12

No mention of Solar? It's too long, but that sequence where he thinks his dick has dropped off is one of the funniest things I've read.

I started on the short stories back when they were the only things he'd published - First Love Last Rites and In Between the Sheets. Loved them. At the time (1980s?) they seemed very different and exciting to me. Haven't re-read though.

kalidasa Thu 25-Apr-13 17:24:17

OK MamaMary, will reread Solar and see if I agree!

valiumredhead Fri 26-Apr-13 08:19:28

I can't stand his books either.

Atonement is the only film that has every been better than the book imo grin

PimpMyHippo Fri 26-Apr-13 12:28:13

I studied Saturday as a first year English lit student, and everybody in the class hated it... We were all amazed that it had won so many awards! I totally agree with someone upthread who said it wore its research heavily - I didn't mind so much with the lengthy lectures about brain surgery, because at least that's quite interesting, but when there were about ten pages detailing one game of squash... OH MY GOD. It took me ages to finish the book because every time I tried to read more than a few pages I fell asleep! Maybe I'm just terribly low-brow and failed to "get" how magnificent his writing was.... but it was the only book I ever studied that was universally disliked by all my classmates.

BumgrapesofWrath Fri 26-Apr-13 12:41:25

I certainly think he is overrated, tried Atonement and Chesil Beach several times and can never get through them. I have kept attempting as he is so critically acclaimed, I thought it was my problem. I've now decided the books are a load of toss and that life is too short...

Grapes - succinctly put!

'The Hunger Games' film is better than the book. I couldn't bring myself to watch, 'Atonement' after the horror of the book.

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