Ian McEwan




the wrinkled old man McEwan brings to life

It’s the 72nd birthday of English novelist Ian McEwan(1948), best known for his internationally best-selling novel Atonement (2001), about a young girl who starts a disastrous rumor. It was later made into a hit film starring Keira Knightley. McEwan tends to write about unsavory characters and situations, like incest and murder. He likes to choose unlikely and provocative ways to tell a story. His novel Nutshell (2016) is essentially a retelling of Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, but told from the point of view of a fetus in his mother’s womb. His penchant for dark material has earned him the nickname “Ian Macabre” in the British press.
McEwan’s novels include The Comfort of Strangers (1981), Amsterdam (1998), and On Chesil Beach (2007). He’s fond of intense research for his books, like shadowing a neurosurgeon for two years for the novel Saturday (2003) and immersing himself in physics for Solar (2010).
When asked how his writing process has changed with the onset of technology, McEwan answered: “In the seventies I used to work in the bedroom of my flat at a little table. I worked in longhand with a fountain pen. I’d type out a draft, mark up the typescript, type it out again. Once I paid a professional to type a final draft, but I felt I was missing things I would have changed if I had done it myself. In the mid-eighties I was a grateful convert to computers. Word processing is more intimate, more like thinking itself. In retrospect, the typewriter seems a gross mechanical obstruction. I like the provisional nature of unprinted material held in the computer’s memory — like an unspoken thought. I like the way sentences or assages can be endlessly reworked, and the way this faithful machine remembers all your little jottings and messages to yourself. Until, of course, it sulks and crashes.”
About writing, he says, “Not being boring is quite a challenge.”

Definition #186 Thank you

In the rain on the coast Maine in April, 2015

In the rain
on the coast
Maine in April, 2015

I give thanks I can

choose to be in Maine Friday

and home Saturday.

I give thanks I can

breathe at 40 or 75 degrees

as I travel home.

Definition: #40 At the Canal


Saturday at the Canal

by Gary Soto

I was hoping to be happy by seventeen.
School was a sharp check mark in the roll book,
An obnoxious tuba playing at noon because our team
Was going to win at night. The teachers were
Too close to dying to understand. The hallways
Stank of poor grades and unwashed hair. Thus,
A friend and I sat watching the water on Saturday,
Neither of us talking much, just warming ourselves
By hurling large rocks at the dusty ground
And feeling awful because San Francisco was a postcard
On a bedroom wall. We wanted to go there,
Hitchhike under the last migrating birds
And be with people who knew more than three chords
On a guitar. We didn’t drink or smoke,
But our hair was shoulder length, wild when
The wind picked up and the shadows of
This loneliness gripped loose dirt. By bus or car,
By the sway of train over a long bridge,
We wanted to get out. The years froze
As we sat on the bank. Our eyes followed the water,
White -tipped but dark underneath, racing out of town.

“Saturday at the Canal” by Gary Soto from Home Course in Religion. © Chronicle Books, 1991. Reprinted with permission.

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