Monday, 1 April 2013

buckland marsh, two degrees, disputed land by tim pears, sweet tooth, ian mcewan

Walked from Tadpole Bridge to Buckland via Buckland Marsh this morning. By the time we returned to the car the temperature had soared two degrees to a heady four. Still, the keen wind is at last drying out the land. The scene on the marsh (top photo) was quite a contrast to that on 1st January, one of the last times I did this walk.

Delighted by the elegant ivy arch seen in a wood near the 'Hansel and Gretel' house--anyone who travels the Oxford-Swindon road will know the house I mean. (There have been a quite a few friends who've said, 'When I was a child I wanted to live in that house.')

Finished reading Disputed Land by Tim Pears last night. Seemed appropriate, given the trip to see family in Shropshire (where the novel is set). Not that there was quite as much intrigue nor as many undercurrents at the family gathering. Almost but not quite :-) Now started on Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan.

I remember interviewing McEwan ages ago and talking about how far he had come by the time Enduring Love was published (1997). How much further he has come now. Here is an extract from that old interview (see

'I couldn't have done you a kind of Balzacian novel with neighbours in it.' I have just reminded Ian McEwan of a critic who saw conflict in his first novel, The Cement Garden, between its theatrically dislocated setting and the realistic treatment of character.

It is evident that the idea amuses him. 'I conveniently have the house standing in a street where all the others have been bulldozed--bulldozed out of fear, if I then had to have Mrs Smith popping in.'

We are sitting opposite each other on large comfortable jade-green sofas in his North Oxford home. His gentle voice expresses a wide range of subtle emotions. The candid point he is making here is that his early stories were of their time. He feels that there is a world of difference between them and his latest novel--a tour de force, by anyone's standards--Enduring Love.

'I was 21 and I was desperate to invent, to be vivid and different, without knowing much about the world, which is partly why those stories were rather bizarre.' He is frustrated at still being judged by their standards: 'I read accounts that try to fit later novels into the scheme of First Love, Last Rights, and it makes very awkward reading.'

He believes his writing divides into two periods. The first ending with The Comfort of Strangers, which cast a fairly cold eye over sado-masochism and patriarchal societies. 'It's really my last novel of not naming anything. The Venice is a sort of mental one--the Venice of Thomas Mann...'

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