Sunday, August 19

First Love, Last Rites

If you're after a fun, enjoyable and light long weekend reading, then this book is not for you. Then again, this depends on how you define "fun" and "enjoyable." But definitely, First Love, Last Rites, the first collection of short stories by Ian McEwan, is not light weekend reading, however you look at it. This book succeeded in disturbing me, but in a good way.

I couldn't finish the stories in one go. It was too painful to read. The same with the other stories. There's a man who was raised as an eternal two year old by his mother, and then she meets a man and decides her little boy has to grow up, now. There's the man who supposedly saw a little girl before she fell off the ridge. Butterflies were never so disturbing.

The last story in the collection, "Disguises," is the source of my unease. A stage actress retires to take care of her nephew when her sister dies. Away from the stage, she brings her penchant for dressing up to the everyday routine she shares with ten year old Henry, who suspects that not all kids have to wear little soldier's uniforms to dinner with their parents. But he wears whatever it is he finds on his bed every afternoon, for he does like the stage--they have this tiny theater made from a fruit boxes and peopled with cardboard cutouts. It wasn't until he makes a friend out of new seatmate Linda that dressing up disturbs him. Or it could be that he got disturbed after he got drunk on his first taste of wine while dressed in a wig and girl's clothes. If that can't make you doubt your aunt's parenting techniques, then what will?

Here's some unsolicited McEwan trivia, according to The Guardian: He wrote the "unsuccessful" film The Good Son (Joseph Ruben, 1993), "about a sociopathic child, intended to reverse Macaulay Culkin's goody-goody image." As for "unsuccessful," again that's arguable. It's the most interesting Mac film in my book, as it departs from his painfully cute roles. It's right up McEwan's alley, I must say, at least based on this early collection of stories.

Still a tangentially related trivia: According to the Wikipedia page, there were previous attempts to film The Good Son had been shelved for various reasons. At one point, the role of Henry had even been awarded to Jesse Bradford, who now stars in the Hollywood remakes of My Sassy Girl and The Echo. Iza Calzado reprises the same role she had in Sigaw.

Anyway, got my copy of First Love, Last Rites (Book #15) in that book stall along AS Walk for Php180. Took me over a month to finish it, considering that it's a very slim volume (125 pages) and contains eight stories. But again, as I've said, this isn't light weekend reading.

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