Friday, April 15, 2005

A little McEwan on reading and writing

I really enjoyed Ian McEwan's latest novel, Saturday, and so I have looked for McEwan interviews online (Google is the greatest invention ever!). Here's a little compilation of interesting McEwan tidbits related to reading and writing.


On writing:

  • " I like to feel that novelists are seriously dedicated to their art, which means doing a lot of reading and thinking about the novel. Sometimes it seems like writing novels has become a contemporary form of expression, expression of self. Much like being a Renaissance gentleman writing a sonnet. It's seen as a thing that anyone with a reasonable amount of education can do, and it's your duty as a citizen to write a half-dozen novels." From his recent interview

  • "I often have spent a while writing a paragraph that I know is a first paragraph of a novel. I just let that paragraph sit there for eight weeks. These sentences are like keys; they really can just turn a lock." From a 1998 interview.

  • "I think of novels somewhat in architectural terms. You have to enter at the gate, and this gate itself must be constructed in such a way that the reader has immediate confidence in the strength of the building. I'm careful not to overload with information, but not to deny too much either." Also from that 1998 interview.

  • "Not many things in life get better as you get older. But in a writer's life, perhaps there's a little plateau that you hit somewhere in your mid-40s to your mid-50s. You've still got the physical stamina to write a novel without too much pressure, thoughts of mortality."

On reading:
  • "I read a lot of the beginnings of contemporary novels. I get sent hundreds of them. I always read the first 10 or 20 pages. Well, sometimes not 10, sometimes one and a half. It's rare that I feel that sense of being in good hands. It's almost impossible to find." Also from his recent interview

  • "Writers we admire and re-read are absorbed into the fine print of our consciousness, into the white noise of our thoughts, and in this sense, they can never die." From his tribute to Saul Bellow in the Guardian.

  • "I have this twin hunger. I need fiction, although I find it harder to find any that really satisfies. But I nearly always have two books. At the moment, I'm reading the Ted Hughes poems and I'm finishing the latest Updike and I'm reading Steven Pinker's book on the brain. I do have to hump around two or three books at once." From a 1998 interview.

  • "Reading Philip Roth's "Portnoy's Complaint" seemed to offer amazing life -- brilliant use of embarrassment, in terms of paralyzing the reader. For an American writer such as Roth to address something so commonplace as masturbation, and wrapped around it is an extraordinary meditation of what Jewishness is about. It was bold and profoundly apt. I took something from that. And "Naked Lunch" -- something in the kind of scamperous cruelty of it, again was like a jolt." From the 1998 interview

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