That dependable beacon of contemporary literature, MOTEV, has weighed in on more titles. In fact, as much as I love Ian McEwan (I consider him to be one of our greatest living writers and there is, in fact, something of a McEwan shrine on one of my bookshelves), I have to agree with her slightly about Enduring Love. I genuinely believe it to be the weakest of McEwan’s novels because, as MOTEV suggests, the artifice calls attention to itself.
But I suspect the faults have more to do with McEwan’s inability to follow through on Enduring Love‘s fantastic opening set piece, which is among one of the greatest things he’s ever written. One of McEwan’s literary specialties is in showing how one act affects other lives. In Atonement, we see how a childhood act of cruelty leads to guilt and deceit, even in chronicling the details of the act. The Cement Garden shows with devastating clarity how the loss of parents alters the lives of children. But Enduring Love‘s great fallacy is in intellectualizing the trauma rather than filtering emotion through McEwan’s cut-to-the-bone clinical prose.
The other night, I found myself defending Something Wild‘s spotty third act with someone. I still consider Something Wild to be my favorite of Jonathan Demme’s films, largely because the first hour is such a breathless array of madness, with the tone alternating between demented screwball comedy, melodrama, sexual charge, and the poignant revisitation of family. Is it a flawed film? Absolutely. But as far as I’m concerned, I don’t believe Demme will ever top that first hour in his career.
So what of it, readers? Are there any books like Enduring Love or films like Something Wild that you find yourself falling over, yet looking the other way when the last act gets derailed by clunky narrative or, worse yet, a deus ex machina?