Authors like Ian McEwan?
July 31, 2012 1:02 PM   Subscribe

In what literary tradition is the work of Ian McEwan? Which authors, past or present, are stylistically related?
posted by shivohum to Writing & Language (9 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Rochester Public Library has Ian McEwan on their read-alikes list. Also, googling "Ian McEwan read-alikes" will find you other suggestions.
posted by jabes at 1:06 PM on July 31, 2012

Contemporary literary fiction is about as near as you can come, I'd say. But here's a profile in the Guardian: according to the man himself, he was influenced by Kafka, EO Wilson and Evelyn Waugh; the guardian suggests John Banville as a contemporary with similar sensibilities.

And though I am too lazy to google this for you at the moment, I'd bet $100 bucks there's at least one if not several essays discussing McEwan in either The London Review of Books, The New York Review of Books, and possibly The New Yorker or Granta. I'd google the names of those mags plus McEwan and you should be able to find some not too terribly stuffy discussion of his work which will describe his influences.
posted by Diablevert at 1:52 PM on July 31, 2012

As McEwan emerged as a novelist, he was frequently associated with Martin Amis and Julian Barnes. To a certain extent, this was because they shared some certain career trajectories and were of similar ages. Their styles and their interests have diverged over the years (if indeed they ever truly were convergent to begin with: their association was perhaps a matter of journalistic convenience). Initially McEwan was noted for his play with gothic themes and undercurrents of sexual obsession. "...stylistically related" is difficult; Jim Crace, perhaps? In terms of thematic concerns, John Lanchester, maybe?
posted by hydatius at 3:43 PM on July 31, 2012

In his misanthropic morbidity, he reminds me of Patricia Highsmith. YMMV.
posted by Egg Shen at 4:00 PM on July 31, 2012

I've only read a couple of McEwan's books, but if I may generalize from those two (On Chesil Beach and Amsterdam), his work is not really distinctive from a stylistic point of view. He writes good prose, with well-observed details, but he's not a stylist. In fact, I'd go so far as to assert that that's one reason for his popularity: his prose is excellent but bland, and wholly subservient to the plot and his thematic preoccupation with what you could call the tragic psychology.
posted by bricoleur at 4:55 PM on July 31, 2012

I read Zadie Smith around the same time and years later they seem similar in my mind, stylistically, though that could be from misremembering.
posted by Pomo at 5:31 PM on July 31, 2012

Serious late 20th-early 21st century British mainstream fiction is a huge category. Try middle period Margaret Drabble (The Radiant Way is a good one), some of Doris Lessing (The Fifth Child), some of Iris Murdoch.
posted by zadcat at 6:37 PM on July 31, 2012

I've read The Cement Garden and couldn't bring myself to finish Saturday, and I agree with bricoleur. It's very reminiscent of a lot of other lit-fic authors of his generation - Philip Hensher, Banville etc. (I don't think he's like Iris Murdoch at all but then I've only read A Word Child so far.) Maybe even Alan Hollinghurst? The Line of Beauty is great and captured that state-of-the-nation thing that Saturday strived for and didn't hit.
posted by mippy at 3:42 AM on August 1, 2012

FWIW, Atonement is pretty clearly based on L.P. Hartley's classic The Go-Between (that is, it takes the essential premise of Hartley's novel and then imagines the story leading in rather different directions).
posted by yoink at 9:29 AM on August 1, 2012

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