- Meredith, Martin — The State of Africa: A History of Fifty Years of Independence (736 pages)
- Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o — Wizard of the Crow (766 pages)
- Coetzee, J.M. — Life & Times of Michael K (182 pages)
- Saint-Exupery, Antoine de — The Little Prince (101 pages)
- Brunner, John — Stand on Zanzibar (661 pages)
- Dahl, Roald — Fantastic Mr Fox (79 pages)
- Walker, Barbara — TEENY-TINY and the Witch-Woman (29 pages)
- Shakespeare, William — A Midsummer Night's Dream (23 pages)
- Powers, Richard — The Time of Our Singing (631 pages)
- McEwan, Ian — In Between the Sheets (134 pages)
Page count: 3342.
I suppose it was bound to happen. Although I haven't read as much as I'd like this year, everything I've read has been great. So it was just a matter of time before I encountered a real dud.
I was seduced (or perhaps "got suckered in" is more appropriate) by the back-cover blurbs and description. I re-read them again last night, a bit more carefully, and realized that only one of the blurbs refers to In Between the Sheets, and that indirectly: In Between the Sheets is a collection of short stories, and one of the blurbs praises McEwan's short stories, though I am starting to think it referred to other short stories. The NYRB couldn't possibly be praising these short stories! And as for the blurbs from Fowles, the NYTBR — What's the difference between the NYTBR and the NYRB anyway? &mdash, and the Financial Times, they were only praising McEwan, not anything contained in this slim volume.
I'm sure McEwan is a fine writer. His works seem well regarded in general, and I do have a copy of Atonement awaiting me on my shelves. This detritus, on the other hand, should never have been collected into a volume.
The stories read like an adolescent boy's masturbatory scratchings: a pornographer chemically castrated when caught two-timing two nurses; a gorilla expressing anxiety over his human female lover's loss of interest in him; a filty rich old man who falls in love with a high street mannequin; and so on. I'm certainly not squeamish about sex in literature, but I expect some sophistication, something more than being lurid for the sake of being lurid. I kept waiting for some moment of profound insight, some twist that would give the stories relevance or meaning or something, but that moment never arrived.