WHY MCEWAN HAS ELECTED TO CAST HIMSELF IN HIS OWN NOVEL IS NEVER ENTIRELY CLEAR
fictionality and appropriation that has been present in McEwan’s work from the start.
In Sweet Tooth these concerns are given added frisson by the fact Tom, the writer with whom Serena falls in love, is a thinly disguised version of McEwan.
Exactly why McEwan has elected to cast himself in his own novel is never entirely clear. Certainly it allows him room to engage in some playful reminiscing: the novel features an affectionate portrait of publishers Ian Hamilton and Tom Maschler, as well as an encounter with the young Martin Amis from which Tom emerges considerably the worse.
There are also occasional moments of fun at the expense of his younger self, and at the pretensions of his early fiction. (Many of the stories Tom writes are identifiable as versions of McEwan’s own, and his debut novel, The Levels, is clearly an extended version of Two Fragments, a story that appeared in McEwan’s second collection.)
But by the same token there are more than a few moments — the rather cringe-making descriptions of Tom’s physical beauty and virile lovemaking, for instance, or the sententious pronouncements on politics and literature — when one cannot help but wish for a little more distance between novelist and character.
The question of how to respond to these elements is complicated further by the novel’s final chapter, which contains a twist that alters