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BURNING PAGES - Book Reviews... (August 16, 2001)




Enduring Love {AUTHOR: Ian McEwan}

A chance meeting and a fateful glance ignite an ugly, cancerous love in Ian McEwan’s richly woven tapestry of obsession and faith, Enduring Love. Science writer Joe Rose and Jed Parry meet under the most unusual of circumstances - a stranger has perished in a freak balloon accident. Joe doesn’t know it, but in the brief exchange between the men in the wake of the accident, something equally calamitous has been set in motion - Jed Parry has been infused with a suffocating love which knows no boundaries. Jed is willing to cross all lines to reach Joe, and the constant harassment has made Joe vulnerable, his relationship to Clarissa is beginning to fray and, moreover, his agitated mind seems to be slipping him up. McEwan sets his pieces with malice - the rational Joe is well-pitted against Parry, who faith and irrational behaviour set the two up as a literary Tyson-Lewis.

McEwan is tireless craftsmen of suspense, he raises wonderous dark. Foreboding turrets and towers brick by brick. Be warned if you like pulpy, fluid thrillers - McEwan has a Kubrick-like way of introducing a story - although the plot develops seamlessly, some might be frustrated by its pace. If you cherish the feeling before the thing pops out from under the bed, you’ll undoubtedly enjoy it. The characters blossom through the plot, and for that reason I didn’t think them as rich as many may have wanted. Further, if you’re the type of reader who doesn’t like rather cliché plotlines - I’d argue that obsessive love has been well worn in theatre through Fatal Attraction, The Graduate, and any given Sharon Stone movie, not to mention Romeo and Juliet - then you may want to give it a skip; although Enduring Love is anything but typical. The ending is rewarding for the reader, although some might be left thinking about the villain, and just how one comes to be a villain after all. Love, they say, is the madness of two. Obsession, I’d argue, is the madness of one, and Enduring Love is a hell of a case study.



Heavy Water {AUTHOR: Martin Amis}

Anyone familiar with Martin Amis, or who has a soft spot for short story collections, will love Heavy Water. The author of London Fields and Time’s Arrow cements his reputation as one of our greatest contemporary writers. Amis has an arresting vision and continues to rise decorated literary towers. With his typical firebrand wit and barbed satire, Amis takes us through a universe where poets and screenplay writer’s worlds are reversed in Career Move. Amis seems to be still exploring his talents, with “Let Me Count the Times”, detailing a man named Vernon’s statistical approach to romance - it had my ribs bent near double, although some might find the subject matter distasteful. “The Last Janitor on Mars” is alternately hilarious and provocative, and will be a surefire hit with science fiction fans. Heavy Water is an astounding six-story collection that earns laughs and awe, while stolid Amis fans might fine this light fare, I think it a tremendous addition to your bookshelf.



Miss Wyoming {AUTHOR: Douglas Coupland}

After being thoroughly enjoyed by the listless musings of culture-savvy characters in Microserfs, Generation X and Shampoo Planet, I found Miss Wyoming fairly fangless. Coupland’s story of former Miss Wyoming Susan Colgate, who survives and airplace crash to wonder in anonymity and find herself far from the shadow cast by her pushy mother, provides strong satire of celebrity life, but it swirls and eddies around so much that the journey seems rather dull.

Coupland takes aim at the film industry with a measure of success, but some of his satire seems tired and unoriginal, given the freshness, vision and clarity we have come to expect from him. The prostitutes hired by a drugged out former star John Johnson, the movie story clerk with an amazing film scripts, the typical beauty pageant queen’s destructive relationship with an overzealous mother all these things sing a tired, dusty literary song.

I’m always eager to share Coupland with others, and have often found myself pushing his past novels on anyone who queried. In this case, I wouldn’t bother. Pleasant, yes. Poignant, no.