Friday, 28 August 2015

McEwan's monsters

There are stories. Great stories you wouldn’t recommend even to a best friend who likes this writer more than any other person you know.

Ian McEwan’s recent article about his early writings got me thinking about those two short-story collections he wrote back in the 70s. First Love, Last Rites and In Between The Sheets. Perversity, pornography, incest, bestiality. This was the man, remember, who came to write Atonement and, most recently, The Children Act. Brilliant books. But decent books.

Two stories in particular seemed to me the most disturbing, harrowing literary creations I had or have ever read. I tried retelling “Butterflies” to a friend the other day and realised this is hardly possible to put into words. This is stronger than the mental rape that David Lynch does in Wild At Heart. This is so unspeakable you immediately wish to unread it (too late, this will stay with you forever, so please stay warned) and equally you wish to give this book to certain misguided, corrupted souls who would probably learn something.

And then he follows it up with “Conversation With A Cupboard Man” and suddenly you need Dostoevsky’s Notes From The Underground as a breath of fresh air. But it’s the last bus, it’s a little past midnight, and that story is all you have. 

To mature is to keep those monsters at bay. That is, to dissolve them in experience.