Ian McEwan’s Characters: Explorations of Humanity on the Edge as (perhaps?) Normality

I’m a latecomer to the fiction of Ian McEwan. Crowds of readers, it seems, have read him for years, since the 1970s, even. I see why now. His writing is lyrical. It reminds me of Updike, an American writer whose work he adored.

There are sundry similarities: people on the edge; people estranged; people going through the motions; and, of course, prurience. Lots of it. Sensuality–its pressing upon youth, especially; its mysteries; its unspoken desires.

I’m almost through my first reading of this collection of McEwan’s short stories. They are, I admit, hard to read at times. The language is beautiful but their subject matter and the graphic nature of detail … well, it can (as I’m sure was his goal) discomfit the reader.

McEwan portrays human perversion in ways that parallel watching a Criminal Minds episode. Perhaps the scariest part, for me at least, is contemplating the likelihood that the world is actually more like what McEwan explores than we care to admit.

His characters include mentally unstable youth and adults; nude retarded Thespians; solitary murderers who want, paradoxically, and Raskolnikov-like, to be included; incestuous tykes, and more. Read McEwan, but be ready; this is not fare for the fragile.

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