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Thursday, September 3, 2009


Warning: Rant Coming

Once my SFD (see below) was complete I promised myself I would take a week off and read. Ironically, since I began writing full time, I have stopped reading novels altogether. So this was to be an experiment. Could I could pick up the habit again? And, as an added component, I thought I would dip my toes into the sea of literary fiction and find out what the supposedly better half was doing.

My first choice was Atonement by Ian McEwan. I picked it because I usually like books set in the past. My brother loved it. And so did a million other readers, including those from La La Land. I finished it yesterday. What an amazingly written, engrossing, horror of a book.

Warning: Spoiler Alert

A day later, I am still furious. How dare he call the book Atonement when there is none? How dare he trick his reader into thinking all will be well, when it won't? How dare he lead us all down the garden path of happy endings, then pull the proverbial rug out from under us? That book is exactly why I write romance.

Are the deaths of the lovers more realistic? Perhaps. But who needs realism? Just turn on CNN. Is the cowardice of the liar more true to life? Perhaps. But surely there are people out there who would face what they'd done and ask for forgiveness. Is the long, prosperous, and hypocritical (re: philanthropic) life of the perpetrators unusual? No. But, as McEwan says at the end, the writer is God. He can manipulate the truth any way he wishes. Why, then, did he choose to create such a heartfelt and ultimately cynical book?

Clearly, he is not a Buddhist. There is such thick, deep suffering in the book, but it is not redemptive. And he is not Christian. There is no hint of death being the portal to "a better place." And he is no Jew. Jews must face those they've wronged, actively seek forgiveness, and work to right whatever harm they've done. I don't know much about Islam, but I'd take bets he's not Muslim either. So what is McEwan?

A coward. That is his religion.

He's a coward for not being brave enough to give his tortured lovers an ending that overcomes or makes sense of their suffering--which he clearly wanted to do. A coward for not braving the sneers of his fellow "serious" writers, who would call an "emotionally satisfying ending" a trip down sentimental lane. A coward for the slick, dirty joke he pulls at the end.

And now I need to wash my mind out with the brave words of my own kind. At least we don't play games with our readers.

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