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.