Hanging Out With Ian McEwan
Tina Brown talks to the acclaimed novelist about his new book, Solar, who he’s voting for in the British elections, and the infamous frozen penis scene.
Is the Novel a Dying Animal?
Not long ago, Philip Roth told Tina Brown that the novel will die out in the face of competition from “screens”—television, movies, computers. McEwan is more optimistic: “I think we will still need to examine the fine print of human behavior, human relationships,” he says. “So whether people are reading it on an iPad or an old-fashioned book doesn’t seem to be the real issue.”
A Deeper Look at Solar’s Main Character
One of Solar’s most remarked-upon features is its main character, the fat, greedy, repulsive Nobel physicist Michael Beard—not the most heroic figure, perhaps, for a novel about global warming. And yet, says McEwan, “he’s the man for the job, in a way… He is something of a stand-in for our ways of consuming in the West.”
Global Warming: McEwan Takes on Deniers, “Catastrophists”
Although McEwan believes that science backs up warnings about climate change, much of the satire in Solar is directed at environmentalists. “I think we have to be careful of not being catastrophists and saying you know, ‘It’s all over,’” he says. “It would have the same effect as the deniers. You might as well say, ‘Let’s party for the next five years.’”
The Trouble With Being Labeled a “National Treasure”
Reputation goes hand in hand with celebrity, but despite arguably having won the “reputation award” among his peers, McEwan says the vagaries of a writer’s life make him uncomfortable with the thought of competing. “National treasure,” he jokes, “is a ticket to oblivion.”
Art Imitates Life: Dealing With the Media Spotlight
Beyond the critical success of his novels, McEwan remains a rarity in the contemporary world: a true literary celebrity. He drew on his and others’ experiences with the press in constructing Solar’s main character, Michael Beard: “You almost get addicted to it and it stops… It’s like you went outside at a party and come back and everyone’s gone... They just turn on a sixpence and go and look for something else.”
McEwan Talks Politics, Backs Gordon Brown
Brown’s Labour government may be “tired,” but McEwan is unimpressed with the alternatives, including the Tories’ David Cameron, who has “gone quiet” on global warming. McEwan says he’s taking “the unfashionable view” that he’d “rather give Gordon another year or two.”