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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

To read about movies and TV shows I'm watching, visit my other blog: Elliot's Watching

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Purloined fiction and a reputation gone: clever McEwan story in NYer

Ian McEwan has a clever, if not truly credible, story in the current New Yorker, My Purple Scented Novel (correct punctuation - no comma, no hyphen, go figure). The story is in the form of a "confession," written by a 60+ novelist who is explaining how his reputation has risen while that of his lifelong friend, another novelist, named Jocelyn something (is it possible that Jocelyn could be a guy's first name? even in England?) has declined. He tells the story of their friendship from school days when they were the two aspiring writers publishing in small lit mags and dreaming of a literary future - Jocelyn then sold a play to TV, which the confessor (can't remember his name) thought to be a sellout and insincere (espousing some cause of the day, about which Jocelyn had never held any views), from which J goes on to a highly successful career while the confessor publishes a few obscure novels, marries, has 4 kids, takes a job in an small college in the far north - and visits J a few times a year in J's posh London home. Then the writer, pushed by jealousy and envy, exacts some revenge - I won't give it away, but in short he purloins some of J's work through a clever scheme that leads to J's literary demise. Could it work? Not likely, but it's still an entertaining piece - very much captures the sense of British literary culture, so much more interconnected and culturally important than the sprawling, marginal literary culture in the U.S. One very funny aside in this story, as the writer is cooking up his scheme, he references a literary antecedents for purloined fiction (Borges, Calvino) and even a novel by Martin Amis, noting that he'd heard that Amis got his idea in a long discussion w/ that writer, he says, whose name eludes him, with the Scottish name and English attitude - ha!, a true insider jab w/in the clubbish London literary world.

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