March 25, 2010

"My ideal state as a reader when I'm reading other people is feeling I'm vaguely wasting my time when I'm not reading that novel."

Ian McEwan on the feeling the writer should create in the reader.

Also, on what makes him able to write: "I suppose it just so happens that the woman I love happens to be my wife, and that is a piece of luck. That creates a sort of stability and a sort of endless interest. I know there are other writers who need the kind of spur of unhappiness to work, but not me. When I'm unhappy I can't work."

ADDED: (Via reader email.) "This is the nature of empathy, to think oneself into the minds of others. These are the mechanics of compassion: you are under the bedclothes, unable to sleep, and you are crouching in the brushed-steel lavatory at the rear of the plane, whispering a final message to your loved one. There is only that one thing to say, and you say it. All else is pointless."

15 comments:

Eric said...

"I suppose it just so happens that the woman I love happens to be my wife..."

This guy is a writer?

Lem said...

One of the things they [the press] love to be is indignant. People might have in the past loved sex; I think they now love indignation more. Indignation seems to thrill. So a media storm is often driven beyond all reason, people taking offense..

Like I was saying last night.

HKatz said...

This guy is a writer?

It's an interview, and while I didn't read what the format was I'm assuming it's a spoken interview; writers aren't necessarily eloquent speakers.

Good for him, that he asserts that one can write - even about dark themes - from a position of contentment and stability in life. That one doesn't need to pursue drink, drugs, ruin, depression and interpersonal toxicity.

EIDOLON said...

I, for one, am glad this man loves his wife and is content, perhaps so much so that he doesn't feel the creative-destructive urge to ruin the lives of people he targets or writes about. There are those of us on the receiving end of writers' vanity dramas who love their fiances and who hope for contented lives, also.

There is Art and then there is the art of mucking others' realities. Mean meta has been done to death, anyway.

ricpic said...

Does a shoemaker have to be happy to cobble a first rate shoe? Well, neither does a writer to write.

David said...

Indignity is the new sex? Could be.

edutcher said...

Ann said...

"My ideal state as a reader when I'm reading other people is feeling I'm vaguely wasting my time when I'm not reading that novel."

When I read Tolstoy or Faulkner or Steinbeck or, for that matter, Louis L'Amour, I can't wait to find out what happens next. That's my ideal state as a reader. Maybe that's why I've never heard of this guy.

Julius Ray Hoffman said...

I don't care whether Ian McEwan is liberal or conservative. Either way, I'm a fanboy. And I'm a fanboy without realizing it! I just counted up how many novels of his that I have read, and it adds up to more than those of any other author.

Actually, I think McEwan would better qualify as a member of a Fuck You Party rather than as a liberal or conservative.

Something very strange about the WSJ piece, tho'...

Not a single mention of incestuous teenage siblings who are fucking while their parents are encased in make-shift concrete in the basement below.

How can you profile Ian McEwan and not even mention that????

Bravo to Althouse for this post!

PatCA said...

Oh dear, he consorts with Rushdie and, even dicier, Christopher Hitchens! He despises Islamism!

Can he be one of them?

reader_iam said...

When is incest understandable, and when is it not? When is incest justifiable, and when is not? When is incest preferable, and when is it not?

amba said...

The second one made me cry. Again.

wv gagas

There's more than one??

amba said...

Indignation is certainly a drug many people are addicted to, these days. And Rush is a great pusher thereof. He sells the uncut stuff, the
Johnnie Walker Black of outrage.

rdkraus said...

Quite a good writer.

And that quote is great. I've often read books like that.

MayBee said...

I love Atonement.
I felt that way when I was reading it.

Andrea said...

"Not a single mention of incestuous teenage siblings who are fucking while their parents are encased in make-shift concrete in the basement below."

Admirers of literary fiction are swift to point out the hackneyed standard plot lines of genre fiction, and then you open something that won the Booker Prize and nine times out of ten it's another story about incest. Incest has become the "feisty beautiful heroine loves mysterious brooding hero" of the litfic set.