Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Why McEwan is making me REALLY UPSET.

I'm halfway through Atonement - meaning I just finished part 1. And I have some strong feelings on it already. Mainly, I HATE Briony.

Okay, I know, maybe I'm sort of meant to. I mean she's this kid who thinks she's precocious and knows more than she does and fucks everything up. But if there's one thing that makes me angry, like in a way that makes me feel upset and uneasy and unhappy, and not in a good-oh-that's-so-tragic kind of way, it's injustice. It OUTRAGES me to see people accused of something they haven't done. So Briony with her self-centered nosiness PISSES ME OFF. And I knew what was coming. I knew because McEwan feels like it's really nice to toy with you and tell you from the outset of the chapter, that she's about to commit a "crime". A tease that feels unnecessary and actually makes me impatient. Because I just want to GET to the crime and stop dragging it on with your pretty language! Anyway, knowing it was coming, I actually cheated and skimmed through the last 30 pages of the section, because I just COULDN'T BEAR listening to Briony's self-serving thoughts anymore, and I just wanted it to be like pulling off a bandaid. OVER.

The problem is also, I'm impatient. I don't actually have the attention span to sit through words and words and words when something IMPORTANT is happening. Like, just hit me with it, man!!! This is NOT THE TIME!

My problem is, I think while McEwan's prose is GOOD, objectively, and well-done, it's a little stiff for me. It's stiff without being lyrical or beautiful, and for someone lazy like me, that doesn't translate well. I can coast along on long descriptions/internal/expos done lyrically, because it's like music. But that stuff done formally, well, it feels like work. And sometimes I'm okay with doing some of the heavy-lifting, but only when the moment is slow. Those suspenseful chapters with Briony??? NOT SLOW. Just move it along and GET TO THE EFFINGPOINT bc I KNOW what you're getting at!

I'm sorry. I feel strongly about this, because I was feeling so uncomfortable and increasingly outraged by Briony as time went on, that the closer I got to the offending description of her crime, the more I cringed and could no longer bear to stay with it. And I think it has a lot to do with my outrage at injustice, and how I don't like to be led around for so long if you're going to make me feel this way. I mean 150 pages in feels unseemly to set up an inciting incident. But that's just me. I think I feel angry that he's been making me feel this way for so long, and now has promised me only just as many pages to make me feel better (if he does indeed decide to go that route).

Okay. I'm done. On to Part 2.

4 drops:

cyn said...

i actually skipped the briony parts. yes, i hated her as well. i felt exactly the same way you did. i couldn't read it! i'm not sure if that's good the author evoked such strong emotions or not. is it every good you skip through parts of a book?

i sort of yawned through part 2. =X

moonrat said...

i like your word "uneasy"--the thing that made me most uneasy about ATONEMENT was how much i related to briony. seriously. i can see myself doing what she did and i hate myself for that propensity.

angelle said...

cyn: yeah, someone once said that indifference is worse than hate. at least hatred is memorable. but i don't know. i liked the idea of mcewan much better than the execution so far, but it could just be me. maybe it will pay off in the end, but i can't shrug the feeling that he's TOYING WITH ME, and i'm not liking that.

moonie: you scare me. please don't be briony. she makes me so mad. plus, her name sounds like an oyster. briony the briny bivalve. stupid british names.

vivian said...

I like this book. In fact I wrote a short critical paper on it when I was in the VC program.

He is toying with you. Have patience. This is metafiction. All is not as it appears. :)

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