WHY MCEWAN HAS ELECTED TO CAST HIM­SELF IN HIS OWN NOVEL IS NEVER EN­TIRELY CLEAR

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books -

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

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