Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Critiquing Art: It’s All Subjective
The English novelist Ian McEwan is the subject of the New Yorker Life and Letters’ Feb 23rd article The Background Hum: Ian McEwan’s art of unease by Daniel Zalewski.
While part of the article deals with McEwan discovering at an advanced age that he has an older full brother about whom he never knew, part of the article deals with the opinions of other writers about McEwan’s novels.
In light of full disclosure, I’ve read three of his novels: AMSTERDAM, ATONEMENT (before I saw the film) and SATURDAY.
The novel SATURDAY, which takes place in the course of one day, reminds me of Barbara Vine (Ruth Rendell) novels. And also there’re the obvious hints of Virginia Woolf’s MRS. DALLOWAY (with one of the most memorable first lines in English literature: “Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.”).
Yet for any writers or aspiring writers, the most important idea to take away from this New Yorker article is that opinions about novels, just as opinions about paintings or fashion or automobiles, are subjective. And those of us who create stories have to remember that something we write might hit a troubled chord in a reader – a troubled chord that has nothing to do with our writing – and yet turns the reader against our work.
And when that happens, we need to say to ourselves “It’s their loss,” and keep on writing.