Search This Blog

26 March 2013

'Sweet Tooth' by Ian McEwan

Ages since I read Mc Ewan, now I remember why... Ian McEwan has mastered his art.  Unfortunately, I sense a deep arrogance along with his talent.  Even Nabokov, at his most recherche did not make me so angry.  My anger took away the euphoria I often feel in the presence of art, of a book so well written the story becomes secondary to the telling. I first read Enduring Love, years ago.  McEwan made me feel uncomfortable.  I squirmed with distress at the premise of the book.  I thought that McEwan had that talent that makes the reader feel the discomfort of the people in his books.  I experienced the book rather that witnessed the book.  Then I tried to read Solar. Somehow I enjoyed it too little and was frustrated too much.  It is a sign when one of my German acquaintances, who rarely reads for pleasure and rarely reads frivolous books gushed about this book.  Books are not for pleasure, I think is her motto.  In any case I always felt that Stephen King can give me a stomach ache but I finish his books with a huge smile.  So we come to Sweet  Tooth...  I was angry when I finished this book.  Furious.  It has taken me weeks to calm down and to look at my reaction with some distance.

I think I have to mention that many books have caused me to feel deeply.  Beloved, Kafka on the Shore, The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Schindler's List are just a few.  I have cried, I have laughed, I have been afraid, I have been angry but I rarely feel cheated by the author.  Usually I feel like this when the book is bad, like Twilight.  I was angry and in my insecurity I asked Beloved Proof Reader to read it and see if I was over reacting... no the book is badly written and badly thought out.  Just bad... So if McEwan is so good, then why was I so angry?

My problem with this book is two fold...  The treatment of the protagonist by her lovers, typical of the times in which the book takes place, made me catch my breath many times.  On the other hand, chauvinism even today is common enough and often a cause of anger.  I was emotionally engaged and then came that final twist in the story. It took me a while to disentangle my anger. I felt deceived as a reader. The final twist took her voice away.  The whole story became suspicious, deceitful, unreliable... the unreliable narrator is a common enough topic in high school literature but this was the final slap to the face of a woman.  Her voice had never been her own.  It was always the voice of a man who even in love, obviously thought little of her. Second, it turned love into a whip against a woman, and against the reader. Love of writing is no excuse to patronize the reader. Love of reading does not make me a target.  I want to be a part of the story, of the unfolding, of the telling not the butt of its joke.  I want to trust a writer even in manipulation for art's sake like in Catch 22 or One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.  I cannot trust Ian McEwan.

So my conclusion is that Ian McEwan is a talented writer but I cannot find any joy in his books.  This is the kind of talent that will be studied in literature classes but not loved.

Ian McEwan 
ISBN: 9780224097376 

No comments:

Post a Comment