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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?


BikeRunSki Tue 23-Apr-13 17:39:28

i've read them all, and would start with The Cement Garden and Black Dogs.

CoteDAzur Tue 23-Apr-13 17:42:01

Written well or written poorly = Assessment of the quality of writing = objective.

I didn't like it, I hated it, I felt it just radiates smugness and I can't take it = subjective.

You have every right to say what you feel, even if it's all negative about a great writer (subjective) but it looks a bit silly to say that a great writer writes "poorly".

bigkidsdidit Tue 23-Apr-13 17:43:08

I can't bear his writing, and I have tried.

I really wouldn't bother.

bigkidsdidit Tue 23-Apr-13 17:43:59

Cote isn't the fact that he is a 'great writer' subjective opinion

I certainly don't agree with that

matildawormwood Tue 23-Apr-13 17:44:04


Francagoestohollywood Tue 23-Apr-13 17:45:17

I haven't read his last books, but the collected stories is superb as is The comfort of strangers.

We will never agree on this, Cote. You think he's great; I think he's crap. I think he's crap because he writes poorly and I maintain that, 'He writes poorly' is a subjective opinion based on what the reader does and doesn't like in a writer.

Now - haven't you got, 'Of Human Bondage' or something to get your head into?


Francagoestohollywood Tue 23-Apr-13 17:46:13

the collected stories book , I mean, First love last rites

Yes, BigKid - 'He is a great writer' is just as subjective as, 'He is a crap writer.'

orangina Tue 23-Apr-13 17:51:46

Loved them all except Atonement which I couldn't get through (not sure why, just didn't "click" with me......). Not sure I could stomach A Child in Time now though..... You could start with The Innocent? The Cement Garden definitely one of his more "out there" books (and one of his earliest I think?)

CoteDAzur Tue 23-Apr-13 23:20:56

Remus - We should be able to agree on something so simple.

"He is a bad/crap writer" or "He is a good writer" are not subjective remarks. Good or bad writing can be objectively assessed with characterisation, plot, insight, etc. Whether or not you like his style, Ian McEwan is one of the most widely acclaimed British writers. Calling his writing "crap" just makes you look bad.

Feel free to say "I don't like his writing" or "I hate his style" or whatever. That is your personal opinion. It is subjective. And you have every right to say your feelings about everything.

CoteDAzur Tue 23-Apr-13 23:22:41

"'He is a great writer' is just as subjective as, 'He is a crap writer.'"

Neither is subjective.

Do you think that he has received all these awards, nominations, etc because some people like his style?

I guess this begs the question: Do you think that there is no objective criteria by which books can be judged as good or bad?

interalia Tue 23-Apr-13 23:28:04

I found that they varied a lot. I thought Atonement and On Chesil Beach were brilliant. The Cement Garden very creepy. A Child In Time a bit mad. Solar - couldn't finish it. Enduring Love - liked it, but something didn't quite click.

For me, he comes unstuck most often with plot; I find it either tapers off or twists too weirdly. I love his writing style though.

CoteDAzur Tue 23-Apr-13 23:32:31

His forté is definitely not the plot but his insight into the thoughts and feelings of his characters.

EleanorFarjeon Tue 23-Apr-13 23:38:45

I have read everything he's published and liked them all.

Did my dissertation on his writing.

Very thought provoking imo.

interalia Tue 23-Apr-13 23:52:50

Oh - Saturday also. I started off thinking it was incredibly smug, but then realised that was the point. It was about living a seemingly perfect life but actually being terrified of all the outside forces that could potentially destroy it.

Thewhingingdefective Wed 24-Apr-13 09:00:45

I'm not a fan. I find his work totally unmoving, but I would say to start with The Cement Garden. That is the one that had the strongest impact on me out of the four or five I have read.

hackmum Wed 24-Apr-13 09:18:53

interalia: "I find it either tapers off or twists too weirdly."

Yup. I think he can be brilliant (the opening chapters of Atonement are superb), but I am always disappointed and even angry at the endings. The ending of the most recent one (name escapes me) absolutely infuriated me.

MrsHelsBels74 Wed 24-Apr-13 11:46:08

C'ote are you Ian McEwan in disguise? Or just his biggest fan?

Anything creative has to be judged subjectively, whether something is good or bad is down to personal taste.

E.g. 50 Shades of Grey is one of the worst books I've ever had the misfortune to read, yet it's sold millions & millions.

Ian McEwan has sold millions of books & won awards but I daresay even on the judging committee there were people who didn't want him to win that particular award, it again comes down to personal taste.

I'm waffling now so I'll stop (no awards for me hmm)

CoteDAzur Wed 24-Apr-13 14:17:44

No, I am not actually that great a fan, although I do recognise that he is a great writer.

This isn't just about Ian McEwan, but he is a good example: You would think that people stop and think before they dubbed "crap" or "poor writer" an author who has been so widely recognised as not only good but great, but strangely, that is not the case for everyone.

"Anything creative has to be judged subjectively"

Not entirely. Think of architecture. You might like a building or hate it (subjective) and you may also assess whether it is built well or really poorly (objective).

"whether something is good or bad is down to personal taste"

No, that would be whether you like something or not.

Good/bad is an assessment of quality, and as such, should be objective.

"E.g. 50 Shades of Grey is one of the worst books I've ever had the misfortune to read, yet it's sold millions & millions"

I didn't say bestsellers must be great books and their writers geniuses hmm I pointed out the awards, worldwide recognition, nominations, fellowships etc that Ian McEwan had in his writing career, by people who thankfully know to make such quality assessments on objective grounds.

TheOriginalSteamingNit Wed 24-Apr-13 14:22:00

'Poorly written' is not subjective. There are many issues one might have with Ian McEwan, but his writing is not poor.

CoteDAzur Wed 24-Apr-13 14:23:09

Thank you. Finally, someone who understands what I'm talking about.

TheOriginalSteamingNit Wed 24-Apr-13 14:29:13

I think people often like to give their subjective response to a text more weight by making it about the 'quality of the writing' rather than admitting it's just something they personally feel. And then turn it around again by arguing that all critical evaluation is subjective and arbitrary and if you think it, you can't be wrong.

There's a brilliant bit in a Salinger short story, where a disgruntled wife is complaining that her husband's favourite book is about a bunch of guys who die in a snow storm, and she says 'you know why he says he likes it? because it's so beautifully written for chrissake. He can't even just admit he likes it because it's about a bunch of guys dying'.

If I mark an essay, my evaluation of whether it is well written or poorly written is not just my subjective thoughts about how good I think the argument is. It's my assessment of how well someone has structured his or her sentence, how carefully he or she has made the argument, and how logically it flows (among other things).

kalidasa Wed 24-Apr-13 14:29:49

They are quite readable but he is totally overrated. No one will be reading him (or even have heard of him) in a hundred years, I am quite sure.

Technically speaking, all his novels are essentially expanded short stories - in that they are about or revolve around a particular moment, experience or idea. So the longer they get the weaker they are. His early short stories ('First Love, Last Rites') are nasty but effective; more interesting than the later stuff. I admit I haven't read his more recent short stories though.

Of the novels, I haven't read the last couple but on the whole I think the earlier ones are better. Though I actually quite enjoyed 'Saturday' even though the point above about undigested research (and v. weak writing of female characters) is definitely true.

Wilding Wed 24-Apr-13 14:47:02

The Child in Time is my favourite, it's a bit crazy but also very readable. I also like Black Dogs, Enduring Love and Saturday but the rest of his books that I've read I haven't enjoyed in the slightest. Definitely don't start with Atonement, it'll put you off for life.

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