Tuesday, December 8, 2009
I first read Ian McEwan's "The Innocent" a few years ago, after I'd read "Atonement" and "Black Dogs." "Black Dogs" is one of the creepiest post-war novels set in Western Europe that I know of.
Over the past few days, I read "The Innocent" again, because I'm researching a new play. I am so careless with saving novels these days (and as if to prove that, one of my neighbors left a general cache in the front hall this morning), I had to buy a new copy. My rule is if it's fiction and in the public domain or I'm not totally in love with it, it goes out.
I had half of the novel to finish and take notes on today, and for a 40 minute chunk of it this afternoon, the radio was playing Beethoven's Eroica. I always associate Beethoven with Berlin; maybe because of the Philharmonic? Between McEwan's words and the music, I was somewhere very far away from this decade and New York City.
There's a quote from Jonathan Carroll of the Washington Post on the back cover, suggesting that this novel does for Berlin what Graham Greene's screenplay (well, actually he doesn't mention Greene, but he Should have) and Carol Reed's direction does for "The Third Man." I definitely think he's onto something. And McEwan is so good at reeling in the reader. Though the bulk of the novel is set before the Wall went up, I was completely convinced that I was there, though in reality I never made it to Berlin until a few years after the Wall came down. Doing research when the text is this good (I finished Guenter Grass' "My Century" yesterday, so that's two in a row) always makes me feel like a bit of a slacker. But it sure goes a lot faster.