Enduring Admiration

January 29, 2008 at 3:25 am (Uncategorized)

I’ve done as I said I would. I’ve read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and The Power of One. The book I read immediately beforehand was The Road, and the book I read immediately following was Enduring Love. It’s been an interesting cross-section, and it looks set to continue with J. G. Ballard’s Kingdom Come up next. So many books, so little time.

I read the Ian McEwan title, Enduring Love, in a day. I found it completely compelling. I am so sorry it’s over. I really wish it’s what I could keep reading because I was just riveted from start to finish. It was a gripping psychological and in many ways philosophical and theological study. It’s the fourth McEwan I’ve read – the others are Saturday, Atonement, and On Chesil Beach – and my favourite so far (although I thoroughly enjoyed them all). What a fascinating premise, and what flawless execution.

One of the things that fascinates me about McEwan is that he has successfully straddled the often insurmountable distance between ‘popular’ and ‘literary’ fiction. People buy and read his books, lots of lots of people, but the literary establishment also embraces his work wholeheartedly. And well they should – he’s a bloody fine writer. I’m not sure exactly what quality it is that defines either category or has tended to make one seem the opposite of the other, but McEwan’s popular and critical success suggests such exclusions are really just a bunch of hooey. There’s no reason why a book cannot be both successful in the mainstream and intellectually exciting at the same time.

Enduring Love had my flesh creeping from Chapter Two. I was shivering with revulsion by Chapter Four. But I was utterly committed to the characters. I could not wait to find out what creepy thing the stalker character was going to do or say next. It was truly unputdownable, but trying to make it last was an excruciating, delicious, specific kind of reader’s pain. I became obsessed – how clever that is! – about the details of the obsession. I couldn’t get enough. I still want more. I pored over the trickster Appendix at the end, turning pages over and then back, looking, looking for any last crumb I might have missed, any detail that I could feast on as I started to reflect on what I’d just read. I feel like reading it again straight away, and I only very rarely reread books (doctoral research notwithstanding). And I guess the only point I am trying to make is that it’s that kind of enduring fascination with the world an author creates that makes my heart sing as a reader. Many people have found it in J. K. Rowling’s series, and many others have found it in the world of Bryce Courtenay’s Peekay. I find it in McEwan. I’ve found it many, many times, I’m glad to say, and it’s the sensation that makes me so grateful for my lifelong natural inclination to read fiction. I enjoyed reading a Harry Potter, and I certainly took a lot from The Power of One, but whilst both include different forms of magic in their pages (an interesting coincidence, come to think of it…), ultimately for me the magic lies elsewhere. And here’s a tip if you’re looking for that blood-rush of a great read: Enduring Love is not a bad place to start.

1 Comment

  1. Kaylyju said,

    thats for sure, man

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