Reviews of Ian McEwan’s latest “On Chesil Beach: A Novel” abound, from Michiko Kakutani’s evisceration in the NY Times to The Observer’s Tim Adams’ remark that it is “elegantly realised.” After a while one, or perhaps just me, stops looking, even though I feel some sort of duty to read about and like McEwan given that he was the first student in England’s University of East Anglia (UEA) creative writing course begun by Malcolm Bradbury in 1971, from which I graduated in 2002. But when I saw critic A. Alvarez’s piece in the July 19 New York Review of Books, I paused for a read.
In January 2005 I reviewed for the SFCBR Alvarez’s “The Writer’s Voice (Norton Lecture)” based mainly on three lectures given at the New York Public Library in October 2002, wherein he asserts that it is the writer’s voice we stop, listen to and follow in books and stories, and which stretches “out to the reader, make[s] him prick his ears and attend.” His voice made me do so then and now.
Alvarez lays out a broad and considered view into McEwan the novelist and his novelistic concerns, approaches and accomplishments, covering his first novel, “First Love, Last Rights,” comparing him to Roth, evidencing his comic pedantic tone, through to a thorough assessment of the sexual and historical premise of “On Chesil Beach: A Novel” based in part on Alvarez’s own life experience. His critique ends up somewhere between the softness of Adams and the sting of Kakutani, and it seems Alvarez’s long review may be more engaging than the novel:
“On Chesil Beach is brief and carefully plotted, the writing is measured, the tone of voice is forgiving and nostalgic. In other words, it is a fine example of emotion recollected in tranquillity. Even so, I couldn’t help regretting the fun McEwan might have had with these sad fumbling innocents when he was younger, less mellow, and a great deal less forbearing.”
Read more on the New York Review of Books site.
Photo links to the NYTBR and the Alvarez review. Mahalo!