Get news about Literary Fiction books, authors, and more. “McEwan has pulled off something remarkable here: Sweet Tooth is a suspenseful plot-and-character-driven novel with an unexpected postmodern twist. “What could be a better match—Ian McEwan and a spy story?. Editorial Reviews. redelocidi.cf Review. site Best Books of the Month, November Sweet Tooth: A Novel - site edition by Ian McEwan. Download. In this stunning new novel, Ian McEwan's first female protagonist How does it tie in with the major themes of Sweet Tooth and Ian's method of.
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1, The Survival of the Author in Ian McEwan's Alghamdi Henry The Survival of the Author in Ian McEwan's Sweet Tooth Pramoolsook & Qian Ian McEwan's. Ryde Library Service Community Book Club Collection. Page 1 of 3. Sweet tooth. By Ian McEwan. First published in Genre & subject. Great Britain - Fiction. Sent on Operation Sweet Tooth – a highly secret undercover mission – she meets Tom Ian McEwan is the critically acclaimed author of seventeen books.
When McEwan transfers his own skepticism of the first-person narrative—perhaps as a form that is by its nature particularly deceptive—to the reader, the tropes and conventions of literature are called into question. In a way, of course, that is what all postmodern or meta-literary narratives do. Metanarrative, Mullan explains, is distinct from metafiction. The former is a self-referential form that may predate postmodernism.
Italo Calvino's If on a Winter's Night a Traveler "from the first sentence makes a story out of how reader and writer conspire to make a story" Mullan.
In fact, authors throughout much of the history of literature have used elements of metafiction, at least as far back as Chaucer. Metafiction simply means that the reader is being made aware that the writing or telling of fiction is taking place. Metanarrative, on the other hand, is more intensely self-referential and as such it is well positioned to call into question the nature of the fictional reality, sometimes by entertaining opposing interpretations of it.
We are forced to acknowledge that the narrative is inherently unreliable. Butterfly steps out of the fiction of the performance and engages directly with the audience for a time. In both cases, the result is the destruction of the contrived scene simply through an admission that something else is transpiring; indeed, that this created reality is somehow being orchestrated.
In fact, destruction is the point here: one thing these postmodern techniques do is to systematically destroy the conventional fiction, and pull our attention to what is created in its place. But what is the ultimate purpose of such machination? For one thing, it guards against a relaxation into verisimilitude and the world of the fiction.
As such, I would argue that metanarratives that deliberately preclude the wholehearted acceptance of the created reality of the fiction in effect protest and guard against the notion that the author can or must die.
On the contrary, in such narratives, the author proves himself to be alive and well, visibly pulling the strings of the narrative and demanding to be seen. Arab World English Journal www.
Contrasting two works by Fowles, Holmes states: In order to demonstrate to Urfe that his enterprise is, like a novelist's, fictional, Conchis [in The Magus] must destroy the reality of each stage of the godgame before moving on to create a new illusion involving his company of actors.
It becomes increasingly difficult for the reader to submit imaginatively to successive illusions inasmuch as he becomes increasingly aware that they will soon be punctured. Holmes Given that the role of the magician Conchis is analogous to that of an author creating a fictional world, the successive destruction of those worlds asserts the dominance of the author over the appearance and principles of the fictional world.
But because this is done in a subtler way, our sense of disruption is minimal and can be overridden. In Sweet Tooth, McEwan follows the former pattern insofar as the narrator and author he reveals at the conclusion is a member of the cast of characters to whom we are introduced. Moreover, the similarity between McEwan himself and his character Tom Haley suggests that McEwan is stimulating a surreptitious entry into the action of the novel as himself.
The personality of the author in this case is unusually robust, surviving the transition between worlds that would usually eliminate or obscure the representation of his personality. Like a spy himself, in keeping with his theme, the author infiltrates the narrative under false pretenses.
As noted previously, this is not the first fiction in which McEwan has manipulated and altered the version of reality he has painstakingly created, forcing the reader to reconsider not only the story but the whole nature and motivation of fiction.
In what is arguably his most acclaimed novel, Atonement, the author pulls the proverbial rug out from under us by demonstrating that the narrative we had been reading and believing in was, all along, an invention by another character.
As readers, we are surprised — even shocked — by this revelation, and then what checks us in our surprise is the realization that any narrative is, to some degree, invented, and as such may be just as easily reinvented. The identity of the narrator—or, rather, our understanding of it—shifts from the omniscient and impersonal to one who is intimately involved with the characters and action, preceding the final disclosure that this narrator has written the story, and not as a faithful representation of fact but a wistful fiction that Arab World English Journal www.
We can call it enlightenment, but the moment is, at the same time, one of destruction. Once the shadow world loses its integrity, it can never truly be reconstituted. The existence of the author, his or her identity, and his or her historical and social circumstances—these all must be obliterated so that the story exists unfettered by any consciousness of the author.
As though in recompense, it is the integrity of the principle narrative and its first-person subject that collapses, perhaps suggesting that Barthes was, in fact, essentially correct, but that his statement was incomplete. There may be an alternative to the death of the author; namely, the demise of our belief in the reality of the work. Nevertheless, the ultimate goal of the fiction cannot be mere destruction.
Rather, the goal is to create something durable that can withstand and transcend the instability of the subject. Regarding Atonement, Mullan states: "The test of the trick is perhaps in re-reading… McEwan wants you to identify with characters, to succumb to narrative illusion, to believe it for the moment.
If it works, the novel compels you not to treat it as mere fiction" Mullan , para. In the case of Sweet Tooth, however, fiction itself is called into question by the representation of how it can be used and manipulated, forming a subtext of instability whose intention at times seems to be the production of a radical skepticism in the reader. The death of Serena becomes, then, a sort of battle between her voice and the one that emerges, for through her destruction, we also witness the emergence of a new subject, the fictional author, intruding upon and cannibalizing the story.
Early in the narrative, reading voraciously, Serena vainly searches for a subject that can reflect her in a story: … I suppose I was, in my mindless way, looking for something, version of myself, a heroine I could slip inside as one might a pair of favorite old shoes. Or a wild silk blouse…. I suppose I would not have been satisfied until I had in my hands a novel about a girl in a Camden bedsit who occupied a lowly position in M15 and was without a man.
McEwan 38 Both the narrative and our belief in the narrative are destabilized when we realize that the story we are reading is that very thing that Serena desires, in the manner of a mirror that would root her more firmly in the manufactured world. Yet in the process, the illusory reality of Serena disappears, along with the sense of desire emanating from her; indeed, we realize that she was never there at all, much like the happy couple in Atonement.
But where, in the earlier work, a grimmer version of reality—their own deaths during the war—replaces the phantom couple, here McEwan replaces the young female subject and narrator with something possibly even more disconcerting—something and someone totally unlike herself, and like him. As readers, we experience a radical distancing from Serena when it is revealed that she is the creation of her lover, the one whom we had believed was being objectified.
He steps forward as narrator to take her place as we find it has been his hand and therefore his consciousness at work all along. Nor, as mentioned, are the biographical similarities accidental: while seeming to root him in the non-fictional world, they also point to the fact that Tom Haley himself can likewise be revealed as an illusion, as behind him stands the author himself.
In essence, if the author was supposed to die, he has here exacted the ultimate comeback: a resurrection and reassertion of himself into the midst of the narrative. At first glance, McEwan appears to be demonstrating in a spectacular way that the author is not necessarily the one who dies but instead that the subject and the narrative itself may be made to die in his place.
But why insist upon the virility and survival of the author? Is it a philosophical stance or a poetic one - or perhaps both?
Why does McEwan take this approach to prompting a meta-critical examination of the text and of the dynamic interaction between subject and author? At the same time, this act of stripping a character of her illusory reality is like an act of violence in a book that is otherwise remarkably devoid of it. Existing critical examination of the nature of this violence focuses on a feminist analysis of the work that emphasizes the role of the heterosexual relationship.
We are left with a portrait of the drawbacks of a worldview in which the female is subject to the male gaze, as well as a hypothesis regarding the perceived need of the dominant male to objectify the female. The implication here is that the male requires the feminine archetype in order to comprehend and reconstitute his own persona. To become accustomed to the use of that first- person pronoun and then to be told that it was an illusion creates the loss of precisely what was seemingly present as a result of the point of view—that is, the intimacy with the one who not only created but also lived the narrative, the direct person-to-person transmission of experience.
Of course, this is only an intermediary step to anything that may be considered an ultimate reality. Tom Haley himself is a fictional construct, closely identified with McEwan yet distinct from him, another illusion and a false self as McEwan stops Arab World English Journal www. The precise relationship between McEwan and Tom Haley is a matter requiring some interpretation.
Is Tom, then, a means of allowing McEwan to function within a version of his own memories? Or is the emphasis, rather, on McEwan and Tom as parallel figures, both creators, the one begetting the other? The latter is, indeed, a more fascinating proposition because it allows us, finally, to examine the relationship between McEwan and his character, Serena Frome. Her illusory nature does not mean that she and her individual characteristics can or should be dismissed, though it may, as critics have suggested, make her a profoundly unreliable narrator, calling into question her ability to be an authentic representative example of the female psyche.
Such critical analysis is certainly warranted, and indeed implicitly invited by the author. But her participation in the Sweet Tooth program and its emphasis on providing intellectual an ideological guidance and nurturing for young authors invites us to question that categorical judgment. Serena, albeit by proxy, is, at least by aspiration, a creator of literature.
Moreover, had her enterprise been successful, Serena would have been a part of the creation of the literary, intellectual and cultural landscape of her society.
To be sure, she would have done so as an agent of M15, not as an independent figure. This distinction, however, also points toward an examination of the meaning of agency. Specifically, a social agent is one who is able to act freely and with autonomy on his or her own behalf. Because of the fact that women, in so many times and places, have been and continue to be denied social agency, the concept is a familiar and important one within feminist analysis.
Serena, however, acts as an agent not solely for herself—she is an agent in another capacity, acting on behalf of an organization attempting to arbitrate culture, and it is in this capacity that she herself, at least potentially, becomes a cultural arbiter and a creator of literature. If we continue to entertain for a moment that McEwan and Tom Haley are parallel figures, then each creates a version of himself. Literature itself, while not created as propaganda, is nevertheless judged by its ability to reflect desirable cultural values, and if it does so, it is rewarded by a facilitated acceptance by readers.
Thus, McEwan invites us to consider the extent to which we are implicated in a Sweet Tooth program.
It was, in fact, this awareness of the powerful persuasiveness of social mores and norms that may have led Barthes to dismiss the voice and enculturation of the author, striving toward a pure and unmediated engagement of the reader with the words of the text. But in the dark and troubled Cold War days in London, there were few options for bright young women.
So when a mysterious lover recruits her for the British intelligence service, MI5, Serena throws herself body and soul into an undercover operation code-named Sweet Tooth.
What unfolds is a mystery, a romance, and a dazzling display of literary workmanship. Though the action slows to a crawl at times, McEwan is a brilliant and entertaining storyteller whose lines--sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, sometimes wickedly wise--had me reaching for my highlighter. This time that place is the spy world of British intelligence in the early s. With grace, assurance, and credibility, McEwan assumes a female persona in this first-person remembrance, narrated from the vantage of 40 years later.
Serena Frome is a smart, attractive, Cambridge-educated young woman who is recruited by her older lover for the MI5 intelligence agency. Spydom is, of course, fraught with betrayal, and Serena is not immune to that common pitfall.
See all Editorial Reviews. Product details File Size: Anchor; 1st edition November 13, Publication Date: November 13, Sold by: English ASIN: Enabled X-Ray: Literary Fiction.
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There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later. Paperback Verified download. The setting for Ian McEwan's latest novel is London.
Cambridge student Serena Frome takes a degree in mathematics but actually wanted to study literature. A scheme is concocted and Serena is chosen as an undercover agent, posing as a literary group's representative. She meets Tom Haley, a promising young writer, and convinces him to accept a stipend with no strings attached. The premise is that he'll write something to further Britain's global political aims. Serena falling in love with Tom is not part of the scheme but how can a young, attractive and impressionable young woman resist the charms of such an exciting novelist?
This book is an excellent reading experience but the downside is having to get through the first one hundred or so pages. But persistence will pay off. As Tom Haley's writing career succeeds beyond his wildest imagination and he is more in the public eye, Serena frets about her situation; should she tell him who she really works for and lose him and her job or "kick the can ahead" to another day.
The truth eventually comes out, of course, with glaring headlines and incriminating photos in the London newspapers. But the ending is perhaps not what you'd expect.
I'm not giving it away here but it will give you, as a reader and qualified judge, the power to decide what happens next. It also reinforces the old adage about never confiding intimacies to a writer unless you care to read about yourself later.
Hardcover Verified download. My book group chose this book, and I determined to read it, even though I'm not generally a fan of "postmodern" British fiction. I was not entirely convinced by McEwan's portrayal of Serena as a young woman of the s -- her inner life seemed lacking, as she had few genuine interests and pleasures. No woman in our culture truly thinks she's "very pretty", without qualifications and exceptions!
Her motivations in choosing men remained a bit opaque to me. And for an attractive young woman she was remarkably unpursued at a time when men should have been coming on to her constantly. I like the way the British class thing was made abundantly clear, as I often find it mystifying to try to "read" what class characters are meant to be, and what that means to them and to the other characters.
Here that is laid out nicely. The whole secret spy theme was very much of its time, in the early 70's, when spy stories, movies, and TV shows were a very common thing. It is a great metaphor for the secretiveness and deceptiveness of so many human relationships. In general I didn't feel that McEwan gave me a strong sense of early 's swinging London.
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As other reviews have indicated, there's an amazing zinger at the end, that seemed to change the entire book for me, as I had the dizzying feeling that I hadn't been reading the book I thought I was reading. This is apparently a typical element in postmodern "metafictive" works, as is the book's being about writing.
The book has given me an interest in McEwan's other works. It's not a quick or easy read, although it isn't dense or long. It took me about a week, but I was glad I had lingered over it.
Sweet Tooth was a return to the kind of novel that got me interested in the work of Ian McEwan in the first place: His plot of a young British girl who becomes a low-level operative in MI5 during a low point in Britain's post war political scene drew me in with the uniqueness of its unfamiliar setting both in place and in time , the reality of its characters and the originality of its story.
Young Serena, by virtue of her romantic involvement with an older MI5 agent, finds herself with a job as an entry-level worker in Britain's internal security organization. Her prospects for advancement in a male dominated profession in pre-feminist London are dim--that is until she's recruited to play a part in an odd scheme to fund young authors who have the "right" political outlook.
Her superior's calculation is that in a war of ideologies, the government has a role to play in secretly supporting intellectuals who have the power to influence people who might be on the fence about Communism. Serena's role is to play the role of an agent of a literary foundation that has decided to fund struggling author Tom Haley.
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MI5 plotters think that Haley will churn out the kind of novels that make Western democratic capitalism seem like the best alternative to Communism. Serena inevitably become romantically involved with her unwitting dupe with a series of interesting consequences.
This is a good novel. There's a big BUT here, however.
There's a significant twist that comes in the closing pages of Sweet Tooth. A twist that had I never seen it used before would have been stunning, providing a satisfying end to the novel. There's just one problem: For a novel that was so on track up to that point, I was amazed both that McEwan would use it again and that his editors would allow it. I can't say much more than that without ruining it for others, but I admit to feeling let down. Then again, for those who aren't familiar with this particular plot twist from one of his most notable earlier novels, it probably will serve as a satisfying ending.
For those of us who have seen it before, I felt just a little cheated.I found it a snoozefest at the start but then it picked up.
It felt like McEwan was trying to be too clever, and the plot suffered because of it. Such critical analysis is certainly warranted, and indeed implicitly invited by the author. The writers are led to believe a literary foundation is behind the generous financial support and their only responsibility is to write away, honing their brilliance. The existence of the author, his or her identity, and his or her historical and social circumstances—these all must be obliterated so that the story exists unfettered by any consciousness of the author.
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