Ian McEwan

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Here I am, pushing 81 years, and have just started John Updike’s famous Rabbit books. Wife Cynthia and her sister Nancy read those books many years ago, so long ago that they’ve forgotten most of it. My education is just beginning?

Daughter Kate is letting me borrow the entire series of four Rabbit books. She’s happy that I’m finally reading them. They made a profound impression on her young life, not so very long ago.

At the moment I’m on the last section of Rabbit Redux, having completed Rabbit Run. The section I finally completed last evening, called Skeeter, was breathtaking and heart rending. It captures the mood and issues of the 1960’s with great insight I think. The young black man and Vietnam vet, Skeeter is a devilishly complex bitter guy; the young rich girl Jill, escaped from her Stonington, Conn., home, is brilliant, guilt ridden and incredibly needy, Rabbit’s son Nelson is coming of age in all this, and Rabbit himself is getting an education and confronting reality and truth in spite of himself.

I looked up Updike on Wikipedia and it turns out his Rabbit books are considered his most famous and successful. My favorite author (until Updike?) Ian McEwan heaps high praise:

Updike is a master of effortless motion – between third and first person, from the metaphorical density of literary prose to the demotic, from specific detail to wide generalisation, from the actual to the numinous, from the scary to the comic. For his own particular purposes, Updike devised for himself a style of narration, an intense, present tense, free indirect style, that can leap up, whenever it wants, to a God’s-eye view of Harry, or the view of his put-upon wife, Janice, or victimised son, Nelson. This carefully crafted artifice permits here assumptions about evolutionary theory, which are more Updike than Harry, and comically sweeping notions of Jewry, which are more Harry than Updike. This is at the heart of the tetralogy’s achievement. Updike once said of the Rabbit books that they were an exercise in point of view. This was typically self-deprecating, but contains an important grain of truth. Harry’s education extends no further than high school, and his view is further limited by a range of prejudices and a stubborn, combative spirit, yet he is the vehicle for a half-million-word meditation on postwar American anxiety, failure and prosperity. A mode had to be devised to make this possible, and that involved pushing beyond the bounds of realism. In a novel like this, Updike insisted, you have to be generous and allow your characters eloquence, “and not chop them down to what you think is the right size”.

I copied the above from the Wiki on Updike.

Here’s John Updike in the 1060’s. He was three years younger than me.

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In his God Talk, Part 2 today in the Times, Fish begins with some statistics: between 79 and 92 percent of Americans believe in God, and 95 percent of readers of his original God Talk don’t. Wow!

The learned professor goes on to say that those unbelieving 95 percent “believe, apparently, that religion is a fairy tale, hogwash, balderdash, nonsense and a device for rationalizing horrible deeds.”

In this part 2 article he provides what may be reasonable answers to these 95 percent by in fact using reason to show that reason has its limitations, limitations because it must operate within a context based on starting assumptions. There’s a lot of heavy epistemology here.

He goes on to say that “talking God” is not about giving proofs of God’s existence but about some kind of conversion experience, and he seems to be accepting that there are many kinds of such experiences. One which particularly resonates with me as a UU is from reader Shannon:

But the kind of religion that moves me and other religious people I know is the STORY of hope and love and sticking to your beliefs in the face of disaster etc., not the idea that any particular story describes concrete, historical “truth.”

To me the key here is “hope and love” and this may be consistent with the thinking of the avowed atheist, Ian McEwan, who has said that there is an important moral center to believing that this is it, that this is all we’ve got, this life; we are instinctively moral beings and have this gift of empathy. Of course to accept this as an abstract principle is not the same as acting on it, which might become a real conversion experience or at least take courage, like for example Dr. Rieux in Camus’ The Plague.

See how difficult it is to deal with this stuff? Whew…. Over and out.
😆 :roll:

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Just finished a great book: Atonement by Ian McEwan. It’s blood curdling real in two senses: the psychological and the actual. Psychologically, McEwan knows how to get into his characters, to develop them so well you know them intimately and in fact grow to love them dearly. The actualities of the WW2 scenes in France are deeply and tragically believable and have tremendous descriptive force. The experiences of the young nurse, Briony her name, with the returning soldiers from the battle of Dunkirk are psychologically real and deeply affecting. And the final atonement of Briony is heart breaking but necessary as she makes further confessions to the young lovers, one of whom she had nearly destroyed through a crime she committed as a child, a crime which came about because of her fantasizing and desire to be a novelist at the age of thirteen. This is fiction but it all seems so real and believable: we see how seemingly trivial actions and events produce far reaching and tragic consequences.

OK, you can see I’m carried away with this. I knew nothing about Ian McEwan before I read this book. Here’s an interview of McEwan by Richard Dawkins:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o7LjriWFAEs&ap=%2526fmt%3D22[/youtube]

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