Saturday, April 07, 2007

Ian McEwan: "On Chesil Beach"

Ian McEwan, whose On Chesil Beach is due out in the U.S. this summer, was recently interviewed by Boyd Tonkin for the Independent.

The article that resulted opens:

If you stroll along the "infinite shingle" of Chesil Beach in Dorset, as Ian McEwan did while composing his new novel, you will find that millennia of tides and winds have "graded the size of pebbles" along its 18-mile length, "with the bigger stones at the eastern end". The writer went to check this out, and felt - as he weighed the pebbles in his palms - that it was true.

Already, critics have lauded On Chesil Beach as a major achievement from a painstaking micro-historian of the inner life. Edward and Florence, its loving but fatally innocent couple, stumble into a wedding-night disaster in the "buttoned-up", respectable England of July 1962, the victims not merely of "their personalities and pasts" but of "class, and history itself". Yet long-haul admirers of McEwan will detect some even deeper rhythms at work here. Once again, he traces the ominous crossing of a threshold from one human state to another: a step into the dark framed - as often in his fiction - by the inexorable onward movement of maturing and ageing bodies, of biological evolution, of climate and even geology itself.

Read on: there's a lot more there about subjects beyond the immediate scope of the novel, including the role of science in our salvation.

--Marshal Zeringue