Ian McEwan is eloquent, witty, and quite British in demeanour and intonation. He’s as well-put together in words as he is in print, and hearing him read his own words brings a new sort of power to them. As he said tonight:
"One of the pleasures of reading is breathing the words."
Listening to speak tonight has cemented my opinion that he’s one of the rare gems in the literary world today, and I’m immensely grateful that I was able to hear him answering questions and laying out his thought processes tonight.
"I think literature is like a higher form of gossip."
He drew some funny correlations, but it’s true in some ways. As humans work, we like to talk about people, peer into people’s lives, and, like he said, “to know what it’s like to be someone else.”
One of the things I appreciated about him is that he didn’t try to doll out droll advice or comments on what makes a good writer. He doesn’t keep rules when he writes (other than “show up at your desk”), but he made a good point when he said that hesitation is one of the most important tools for writers. He isn’t one of those authors who churns out [identical] book after [identical] book, which is evident enough in his books, and, when asked how he wrote books as introspective of the human condition as Atonement or On Chesil Beach, he simply reiterated his point of hesitation.
"Each book’s got to feel like your first, and you’ve got to learn to write it again."
Also, interesting factoids: apparently, a French Ph.D did a study that compared the differences between American and British version of books, and, apparently, from McEwan’s own experience, Americans are viciously enamoured with the comma.
There are many other things he said that I was unable to jot down, but, luckily, the conversation was recorded for podcast.
Oh, and: On Chesil Beach is being adapted for film by McEwan himself (“I think of a screenplay as a novella”) and to be directed by Sam Mendes (!!!). As McEwan said, there’s so little dialogue in On Chesil Beach that he couldn’t bear to let someone else write the dialogue.