Saturday, March 29, 2008

Ian McEwan's Atonement

Read in in a five hour sitting on the flight from New York to San Jose last week. Curious that no airlines advertise on-board libraries. Jetblue makes a big deal out of their 64 channels. But practically any book is more entertaining and customer-satisfying than the pabulum available. There can be no greater demonstration of what the Jesuits mean when they aspire to the "highest humanism" than to be reading Atonement, take a break, accidentally flip to Fox News, and watch "not highest humanism".

That said, there is something a bit too precious about the book. I enjoyed the self-conscious asides about crafting a novel, a somewhat welcome contrast to the over-serious Crow Lake. But at the same time, important elements of that self-consciousness are left out. Why are the characters in Atonement impossibly rich? Important for the story? Can only rich people be "minds" that need to be understood? Or does McEwan understand the market for fiction, where rich people are going to sell more movie rights than poor people? But a wonderful book, I thought.

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