M is for McEwan


Ian Russell McEwan was born in 1948 in Hampshire, England and was one of the first graduates of a creative writing course run by the University of East Anglia under Malcolm Bradbury and Angus Wilson.

He published his first collection of short stories at the age of 27 and his first novel 3 years later. He is often referred to “Ian Macabre” due to the nature of his earlier stories.

During his career he has been nominated for the Man Booker Prize 6 times, winning it for ‘Amsterdam’ and was featured on The Times “50 Great British Writers Since 1945.” The New Yorker named him as “Englands National Author.”

He writes “contemporary fiction” and has written short stories, novels, children’s books and screenplays, but critics, and readers seem to be divided on whether he is a master of prose or if his novels are so perfectly crafted that they are infuriating and beyond the enjoyment of the average man on the street. He is best known for his novel “Atonement”.

My favourite McEwan quotes:

“How often one reads a contemporary full length novel and thinks quietly, mutinously, that it would have worked out better at half or a third the length.”

“I often don’t read reviews.”

“I think of novels in architectural terms. You have to enter at the gate, and this gate must be constructed in such a way that the reader has immediate confidence in the strength of the building.”

“Im quite good at not writing.”

“You can spin stories out of the ways people understand and misunderstand each other.”

“You could say that all novels are spy novels and all novelists are spy masters.”

5 Minutes With Ian McEwan

I find it interesting what he says about reading “contemporary” novels, as personally, I found (whilst reading McEwans Saturday) that 7 pages to describe the main character leaving his house and arriving in the theatre of the hospital (the main character is a surgeon), a little excessive. So I totally agree! 😉 But isn’t that what defines contemporary literature? What is your interpretation of a literary novel as opposed to popular fiction?

41 thoughts on “M is for McEwan

  1. Ah, another author to look into! Interesting, I didn’t realize contemporaty fiction was generally long-winded but I’m inspired now to see what the difference between contemp and literary is. It’s sort of bad that I don’t already know!


  2. I’ll be interested to see how people answer your question. Personally I don’t think I ever heard of this author. Have a good week Vikki 😀


    • So will I Sue 🙂 I’m hoping someone is going to come along and give me an I depth explanation to the differences 😉

      Wow! So you’ve never seen the film Atonement? Brilliant story in my opinion.

      You too honey xx


    • Oh don’t get me wrong Patsy, I thought Saturday was a brilliant story…just a bit too wordy. I have to admit that I skipped a couple of pages of the 7 page journey to the hospital, I got bored lol 😉



  3. I like what he says about not reading book reviews. Probably a good thing to not do, because it seems opinions vary vastly and unless it happens to be a good review, all it would do is make you worry or second guess yourself on something that’s already completed.


  4. I loved Atonement too! So evocative and atmospheric. For me the difference between contemporary fiction, within which itself lies many different genres, and literary fiction is the quality of the prose. To warrant the label ‘literary’ I need to experience swathes of lyrical language, to get lost in the poetic quality of the words, to find my dreams infiltrated at night by the sheer mysteriousness of the novel. There must be a sense of something that I can only catch a glimpse of, but never quite hold in my hand, a meaning that slips between my fingers like quick-silver. Is that all rubbish? Maybe — but I know it, recognize it when I read it. So the only possible way to distinguish between the 2 kinds of literature is to read the novels and decide yourself! 🙂


  5. I loved Atonement so much that I couldn’t watch the film. It didn’t match what was in my head and I turned it off after about half an hour! I love Saturday and just had to have a go at making the fish stew!


  6. My feel is, if I want poetry, I’ll read poetry. But for novels, I want something engaging, story driven, and that sets my imagination reeling. Literary fiction is not my thing, unless it’s a classic. I tend to like action a little too much. 😉


  7. I read The Comfort of Strangers after seeing the film with Christopher Walken (who was my reason for watching it!) and like The Cement Garden and the Child in Time it explores the darker side of human nature. I found the themes a bit bleak, but have not read anything since Enduring Love, which was an A level set text and I was teaching it at the time. I found this intrigued me much more. I love the quote from the author about comparing novel contruction to artchitecture! Maybe I need to explore some more recent McEwan.


  8. Liked Atonement (the book not the movie) and have not read Saturday. Haven’t seen the movie for the first either. (Gosh, I need to get out more!) I will definitely look into Saturday and the short stories you mention.


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