Thursday, August 15, 2019

I don't want to be between those sheets

In 1978 Ian McEwan wrote a book of short stories called "In Between the Sheets," which he considered experimenting in various forms and to "find his voice as a writer."

Two decades later, McEwan went on to write two of my favorite books: "Atonement" and "Amsterdam."

It's a good thing I read his novels first, because if I'd read those short stories first I never would've touched them. I appreciate a guy experimenting, and it apparently worked, but man was that some awful stuff i just finished.

It seems McEwan had a bit of an Edgar Allen Poe phase and dipped into the gothic and sexual, but man was it nuts. Some of the stories were almost unreadable gibberish. It's like he had some notes for a story, but no beginning and no ending, and thought "hey, I'll throw them in this book of short stories."

The ones that were readable were weird. There was the two-timing pornographer whose girlfriends decided to castrate him. There's a possible relationship between a female writer and her ape. And there's a father who is suspicious of his teenage daughter's relationship with her older midget girlfriend.

The only one that was slightly entertaining, in an E.A. Poe way, was "Dead As They Come." It "tells of a wealthy businessman's bizarre obsession with a fashion mannequin, which he purchases and takes home with him."

Spoiler alert: He goes crazy(er) when she refuses to talk to him and he "kills" her.

I'm glad McEwan improved as a writer and is now considered one of the best British writers of all time. Maybe the experimentation in the short stories helped. So at least it wasn't a wasted effort.

I like short stories and always have a couple books of them on hand for when I have only 15 minutes to kill, not enough time to sink into a novel, but enough time for a quick escape. Mark Twain's are the best. I bought a recent one by Craig Johnson with Longmire shorties. Haven't tried that yet. Argentinian author Jorge Luis Borges has another one that I've really enjoyed.

And it dawns on me, if you happen to be into weird short stories (not McEwan weird), you might like some of those listed on this homepage. I wish I could say I've progressed as much as a writer as he has.

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