One-Minute Book Reviews

February 29, 2008

Delete Key Awards Finalist #6 – Ian McEwan’s ‘On Chesil Beach’

Filed under: Delete Key Awards,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:03 pm
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Delete Key Awards Finalist #6 – From Ian McEwan’s On Chesil Beach:

“Like most young men of his time, or any time, without an easy manner, or means to sexual expression, he indulged constantly in what one enlightened authority was now calling ‘self-pleasuring’ … How extraordinary it was, that a self-made spoonful, leaping clear of his body, should instantly free his mind to confront afresh Nelson’s decisiveness at Aboukir Bay.”

“Because the instrument was a cello rather than her violin, the interrogator was not herself but a detached observer, mildly incredulous, but insistent too, for after a brief silence and lingering, unconvincing reply from the other instruments, the cello put the question again, in different terms, on a different chord, and then again, and again, and each time received a doubtful answer.”

Earlier this year, Ian McEwan made the longlist for the Bad Sex in Fiction award from the London-based Literary Review, possibly for passages such as the first. He lost that prize to Norman Mailer’s The Castle in the Forest. But the problems with On Chesil Beach go beyond than sex: The second passage quoted above sounds like McEwan is channeling the worst of the later work of Henry James.

The finalists for the 2008 Delete Key Awards are being numbered but announced in random order.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.


  1. Surely we have a winner with this one…but now that I see the competition…It will be a tough year for judging. 🙂

    Comment by Jon — March 1, 2008 @ 12:34 am | Reply

  2. That’s what I thought, too, when I first read “On Chesil Beach.” Now I think I may need help in the form of strong arguments from visitors to this site.

    How can you choose between McEwan and Eckart Tolle’s assertion that on our planet and perhaps “in many parts of our galaxy and beyond, consciousness is awakening from the dream of form”? What on earth does that mean? And may we ask how he knows?

    The New York Times had an article recently about the rise of anti-rationalism in our culture and with the belief that, in effect, my reality is the only reality. Who could argue with the Times on that one?

    Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — March 1, 2008 @ 12:40 pm | Reply

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