November 6, 2016

Ian McEwan Quotes

“A twenty-one-year-old writer is likely to be inhibited by a lack of usable experience. Childhood and adolescence were something I knew.”

“As regards literary culture, it fascinates me that it has been so resilient to the Union. For example, when T.S. Eliot wanted to become poet in these lands, it wasn’t as an English poet, it was an Anglian poet he wanted to be.”

“Atheists have as much conscience, possibly more, than people with deep religious conviction, and they still have the same problem of how they reconcile themselves to a bad deed in the past. It’s a little easier if you’ve got a god to forgive you.”

“By concentrating on what is good in people, by appealing to their idealism and their sense of justice, and by asking them to put their faith in the future, socialists put themselves at a severe disadvantage.”

“How often one reads a contemporary full-length novel and thinks quietly, mutinously, that it would have worked out better at half or a third the length.”

“I actually find novels that are determined to be funny at every turn quite oppressive.”

“I always used to deny this, but I guess what I’m really saying is that I was writing to shock… And I dug deep and dredged up all kinds of vile things which fascinated me at the time.”

“I apologize for being obvious, but every time I watch the curtain come down on even a halfway decent production of a Shakespeare play I feel a little sorrowful that I’ll never know the man, or any man of such warm intelligence.”

“I don’t believe there’s any inherent darkness at the center of religion at all. I think religion actually is a morally neutral force.”

“I don’t really believe in evil at all.”

“I put it to you that there are no British poets, there are no British novelists. I have heard myself described as one, but I think really I’m an English novelist; there are Scottish poets and Scottish novelists.”

“I think of novels in architectural terms. You have to enter at the gate, and this gate must be constructed in such a way that the reader has immediate confidence in the strength of the building.”

“I want to live in a place where strangers rush to help someone in distress.”

“I was an intimate sort of child who never spoke up in groups. I preferred close friends.”

“I wouldn’t mind being the lead guitarist in an incredibly successful rock band. However, I don’t play the guitar.”

“If I could write the perfect novella I would die happy.”

“In my experience an appreciative letter from a fellow writer means a lot.”

“It is not the first duty of the novelist to provide blueprints for insurrection, or uplifting tales of successful resistance for the benefit of the opposition. The naming of what is there is what is important.”

“It should simply be an empirical matter whether the climate is changing or not and whether we’re responsible. But the various sides of the debate have now become so tribal that it’s no longer a matter of changing our views as more information comes in.”

“It’s good to get your hands dirty a bit and to test how you see things at a given point. And it’s very pleasing after writing something like ‘Atonement’ or ‘On Chesil Beach,’ which are historical, to get involved in some plausible re-enactment of the here and now.”

“I’ve yet to meet somebody who said, ‘Your stories are so revolting I couldn’t read them.'”

“London in the ’70s was a pretty catastrophic dump, I can tell you. We had every kind of industrial trouble; we had severe energy problems; we were under constant terrorist attack from Irish terrorist groups who started a bombing campaign in English cities; politics were fantastically polarized between left and right.”

“My father’s drinking was sometimes a problem. And a great deal went unspoken. He was not particularly acute or articulate about the emotions. But he was very affectionate towards me.”

“My parents were keen for me to have the education they themselves never had. They weren’t able to guide me towards particular books, but they encouraged me to read, which I did, randomly and compulsively.”

“Not being boring is quite a challenge.”

“Novelists have to be adept at controlling the flow of information, and, most crucially, they have to be in charge of the narrative.”

“Now, I’m an atheist. I really don’t believe for a moment that our moral sense comes from a god.”

“Oh, I’ve become immune to the Booker. I think we need something a little more like the Pulitzer prize, where there isn’t this great race.”

“One has to have the courage of one’s pessimism.”

“One important theme is the extent to which one can ever correct an error, especially outside any frame of religious forgiveness. All of us have done something we regret – how we manage to remove that from our conscience, or whether that’s even possible, interested me.”

“Perhaps the greatest reading pleasure has an element of self-annihilation. To be so engrossed that you barely know you exist.”

“Reading reviews makes you thin-skinned. It’s like waves washing layers off your skin.”

“Scientists do stand on the shoulders of giants, just as do writers. Conversely, in the arts we do make discoveries. We do refine our tools. So I am arguing with, or at least playing with, the idea that art never improves.”

“Some people are tied to five hundred words a day, six days a week. I’m a hesitater.”

“Something is missing in our culture. We can’t quite celebrate the scientific literary tradition.”

“The best way to tell people about climate change is through non-fiction. There’s a vast literature of outstanding writing on the subject.”

“The end of secrecy would be the end of the novel – especially the English novel. The English novel requires social secrecy, personal secrecy.”

“The moment you have children and a mortgage you want things to work; you’re locked into the human project and you want it to flourish.”

“True intelligence requires fabulous imagination.”

“We overvalue the arts in relation to the sciences.”

“What is it precisely, that feeling of ‘returning’ from a poem? Something is lighter, softer, larger – then it fades, but never completely.”

“What I’ve discovered and really confirmed to myself is that opera really likes loud colours, and you need something bold, something savage, unpredictable, passionate. You can’t really run a two-hour opera round some muted murmuring.”

“When I began I thought that literature was contained within a bubble that somehow floated above the world commented upon by newspapers. But I became more and more interested in trying to include some of that world within my work.”

“You can spin stories out of the ways people understand and misunderstand each other.”

“You could say that all novels are spy novels and all novelists are spy masters.”

“You enter a state of controlled passivity, you relax your grip and accept that even if your declared intention is to justify the ways of God to man, you might end up interesting your readers rather more in Satan.”