Exhibit 1.1.21

Huh


When McEwan’s book reaches its sudden conclusion–as spoiler-free as possible: a creepy family achieves maximum creepiness, somewhere V.C. Andrews blushes–it’s difficult to see past the shock of it all to any greater point. And that, I suppose, is the point, even if it’s not a very good one. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a plenty interesting and insightful book–language, imagery, etc. all top-notch–but the final act it builds toward is achingly inevitable from the first pages and so it’s a matter of simply waiting it out. Of course, there’s a shocking act at the beginning too and even the first sentence–something from the narrator about not having killed his own father–seems needlessly incendiary as when that moment comes, there’s nothing to suggest the character did kill his father nor that anyone thought he did. It’s the literary equivalent of yelling fire in a crowded theater then, after everyone’s maimed on the floor, putting on a pornographic movie just to be a dick.

(Or is it like that? Is anything like that?)

So much shock, so little of interest behind it all. Maybe this book once said something about the depravity of British society (or at least the children) or maybe–likely–I’m missing something, but I set this book down feeling sad that someone so talented had wasted so much time aiming so low. Shock ages poorly, is the problem, and so absolutely it’s ghastly that this book involves incest but, you know what, so do about half the episodes of Law and Order: SVU. And yep, the events proceeding it are wonderfully described by a sensitive and complex character in the 1st person, but that blackhole of a moment is so strong that nobody else gets to be anything other than a scandalization-bot. Seemingly no other character has a choice, and those who have very good reasons to be disinterested or disturbed by it find themselves involved because this book is about a creepy family and if they’re ever going to be the creepiest family then everyone’s got to be on-board. Why they’d want to be isn’t important. What is important is that every reader closes the book feeling ashamed because we’re all implicated in it by how lovely the writing is. Well, I don’t care. This isn’t Lolita and dirty is not an emotion.

McEwan is better than this book, thank god. Apparently someone reminded him that–despite what a lot of immature writers seem to think–being shocking doesn’t mean being more honest and usually it means the opposite.

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