Ian McEwan (Jonathan Ca e £14.99)

’No other writer has c arted the blackest, most diseased legions of the human psyche as brilliantly and with such relish as Ian McEwan.’ So wrote the journalist Tony Parsons back in 1987. Over ten years on, McEwan is still serving up deep- frozen revenge and tangled moral mazes and directing the coolest of gazes over the blackest of holes in human behaviour. The author of The Child In Time, Black Dogs and more recently Enduring Love is, it seems, still taking a sharp knife to festering psyches.

In his latest novel Amsterdam, he pits old male friend against old male friend. But from the start, the lines of battle are uneasy, shifting sands. These drinking and companionable mates once shared a lover, a wildly free spirit called Molly Lane. The novel begins at her funeral. Outside the crematorium they chat and cast eyes over the fellow mourners: Vernon Halliday, newspaper editor and Clive Linley, composer, are two very likely professional middle-aged lads.

But try and take a moral vantage point, a grid reference of rights and wrongs, and you will be sorely tried. McEwan has a knack for literary seduction. Under the guise of his gently purring writing style, he delivers dilemmas which can bring on a cold sweat. Like his contemporary Martin Amis, he treads carefully on the underbelly of anxiety far more effective than riding rough-shod over a landscape of angst. As Parsons aptly put it, McEwan is perhaps the thinking man’s Stephen King.

There is talk, however that McEwan is going soft with middle-age. The moral grime of his early works is being overtaken by a subtler but no less gripping attack on human frailty. Perhaps so, but it is probably more down to the unstoppable evolution of McEwan. Moral


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NEW FICTION Alex Garland The Tesseract (Viking £9.99)

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To nick one of his own phrases in this astonishing book, Alex Garlands writing is as beautiful and rare as his own fmgerprmt Of all the questions which must have gone through Garlands head over the last couple of years, one iriust have been 'how the flaming heck do I follow up my cult classic The Beach7’ Well, what you do is construct a thrc-ée-way plot set in the wealth and poverty of Manila, hold it together With one mighty concept and wrap it all up in a cracking read

Not many could pull it off, but this month’s literary enla'tt terrible has done it with, unbelievably, a bit to spare Sean is in hiding from the feared

Ian McEwan: middle-age cred

dilemmas continue to rage. ln Amsterdam, the companionable friends slowly melt into adversaries and then speed towards methodical hatred. McEwan sure can excavate the most troubled minds from the most mundane of people. (Susanna Beaumont)

gangster Don Pepe after a shipping deal hits the rocks, A doctor, Rosa, wazts for her husband to return home, as childhood memories return to haunt her Two street urchins reveal their dreams to a man in return for payment. In one bloody confrontation, all three stories come together

And a tesseract7 Crudely put, it is a three-dimensional Objf-PCI With a fourtn set to unravel. All the lives here are connected and dependent on one another. Fate, destiny and supersymmetry Such ideas should weigh down the characters, With so much symbolic expectations placed upon their backs. Yet, Within these 'restrictions' Garlands people breathe, experience and come almost too alive Hornby, Ishiguro and Ballard all admire his work You should, too 'Bi‘iart Donaldson)

preview BOOKS

First writes

Putting debut authors under the microscope. This issue: John McCabe.

Who he? John McCabe was born in Vancouver in 1967 and owns a life which can be best described as varied. He has a PhD in Genetics, gained at Birmingham University in 1994, DIS fortnightly at Blast Off in Wolverhampton and indulges in many spots of go-karting. He currently lives in Brum With his two cats.

His debut It's called Sti'ck/eback and is a novel about men, routine, booze, love, football, computers and how not to pull off the perfect heist.

First line test ’As With the stereotypical courtship behaViour of the stickleback, human life can inevitably be reduced to a number of discrete actions which fulfil an overall aim.'

Cast Main character Ian Gillick is being suffocated by the mundane, by his girlfriend, by, well, life in general; his colleague Archie, a monster-movie buff and a full-time Trekkie, bears most of the brunt of Ian’s frustrations; the long-suffering Sue, whose attempts to change Ian are too little, too late; Tattoo and Frying Pan, the thugs who enlist the help of Ian for a daring raid. Laugh ratio Not as high as you’d like to think, While there is plenty in the way of astute observations of late 20th century sooety and the indiViduaIs Within, too much is of the crap-capers- in-a-Sitcom-at-830pm variety.

For whom the book is credited No- one, oddly.

The future McCabe is Currently penning his second novel, entitled Paper, which concerns a geneticist who is fired from his JOb before entering into a slow decline towards chaos. Semi-autobiographical, m0i? (Brian Donaldson)

I Sti'ck/eback is published on Thu 70 Sep by Granta at £9.99


10—24 Sep 1998 THE UST 85