Where Ian McEwan leads I am happy to follow
May 23, 2006
In fiction, the most powerful weapon the writer has is suggestion. I think that nearly all good writing is suggestion, and all bad writing is statement. Statement kills off the reader’s imagination. With suggestion, the reader takes up from where the writer leaves off (John McGahern 1934 – 2006)
I’m reading Saturday by Ian McEwan at the moment. Shamefully I have to admit that I only “discovered” McEwan seriously over Christmas…prior to that I was buried in non-fiction, Jane Austen and John McGahern (my two favourite writers) and even now, when I should be reading organisational theory I steal away for an hour or so to spend it with Ian…and I’m rationing our time together. The words are so eloquently and densely packed that I relish the engagement so I can read and re-read his intention, extracting from it myriad meanings depending on my mood. I don’t want our time together to end too soon.
What I love about his writing is the word-smithing. The prose is extended poetry where each word counts. His attention to the detail of each syllable, how it works with the one next door and how they add up to paint a picture of what i is precisely he wants to convey. He doesn’t accommodate; he doesn’t talk down; he doesn’t make it easy. He just “is” – comfortable with his choice of words; extending an invitation to participate (or not); confident in his own space and the consummate story teller. It’s compelling stuff.
The man has authority, it’s heady, and it is a privilege to share the space with him…and I wonder sometimes if in our haste to be all things to all people – be that “on call” 24/7 or trying to word-smith the web blurb or compose proposals do we lose the essence of who we really are? I struggle sometimes with entering into the grammar of prospective clients wondering if they will have any real idea of what it would be like to work with me. And then I take a risk and say it as it is and hope that it might fall on the right ears. Perhaps it will, perhaps it won’t – but taking my own authority is something that I make a decision about. Authority is sometimes awarded and sometimes taken. The delicate dance between when and how is the complex one that only experience informs. In McEwan’s case, he’s a master and he knows it – so do I and I’m happy to follow. Time now, for another chapter.