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First Love, Last Rites: Stories by Ian…
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First Love, Last Rites: Stories (1975)

by Ian McEwan

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Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
As noted, stories are my chosen path. These examples of eerie early McEwan are notable for structure and shock value, the promise of the latter does diminish the further one proceeds into the book. ( )
  jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
Compared to his later Man Booker Prize nominated works, Ian McEwan's earliest efforts are harsh, to say the least. Perverse and violent, the early McEwan had more in common with Stephen King than Julian Barnes, Kazuo Ishiguro, or A.S. Byatt. In fact, I'm not sure I could tell the difference between an early McEwan story and your typical King story. One could argue that McEwan is more polished than King, also more psychological than paranormal, but these differences would be measured in small degrees.

First Love, Last Rites was McEwan's very first book. A collection of stories, it was published in 1975, around the same time Stephen King was getting his start. It could be argued therefore that neither writer was inspired by the other, but that both writers shared similar influences. Perhaps it was merely in the stars—the writers were born nine months apart. Enough with comparison, Ian McEwan's writing was dark, full of taboos, and that's all there is to say about it.

As with most collections, the stories are rather uneven. There are those that stand out as being exceptional and those that are quickly forgotten. It is the stories that are most disturbing that are most unforgettable, and not just because they are so shocking. It is these stories—stories of molestation, incest, and rape—that McEwan's writing is at its best. Frankly, I'm not sure how I feel about that. If on one hand, McEwan had a sick obsession with these subjects, then I'm left uneasy with how to approach his writing. On the other hand, if McEwan had an obsession with these subjects that was based more on a heart for the victim, then I can understand. It all comes down to intention and psychology and... well, it's easier just to slap photos of King and McEwan next to one another and compare them.

Put away the unease and any comparisons, and First Love, Last Rites is still an average collection overall. Yes, there are some wonderfully told, richly drawn five-star stories, but there are several duds as well, stories I'd forgotten before starting the next. Readers who have been personally affected by rape or molestation, or are deeply unsettled by such topics, may wish to avoid this collection, as well as anything McEwan wrote in the first ten years of his career, but other readers shouldn't necessarily avoid the author's earliest works simply because they're dark. In a 2015 article McEwan wrote for The Guardian, the author reflects on his first collection and how critics labeled him a monster, while praising the work itself. He writes, “It was difficult for me then, and would be even more difficult now, to persuade readers that my intentions were actually moral,” and gives a strong argument for how we, culturally, have become sexually confused. I think McEwan has a valid point, and it's one we could spend some time dissecting. Then again, perhaps it's simpler just to offer a distraction and move onto the next review... ( )
  chrisblocker | Mar 23, 2016 |
Ian McEwan’s first publication is a compilation of short stories touching on many subjects that are not for gentle readers. From drugs, rape, incest, murder, psycho aunt, creepy, lonely guy, there’s a darkness that looms in the words providing both a cringe and an understanding. It’s an odd mix to say the least. But it only illustrates the creativity of McEwan’s writings – uncanny and powerful, weird yet striking. Like I say though, it’s not a pleasant read. McEwan gives no one a break.

Homemade – Possibly the most disturbing in the book, I picked up vocabulary that I will erase from memory.
Solid Geometry – An unhappily married couple, a great grandfather’s epic diary, and an escape. This was the most predictable story.
Last Day of Summer – The most poignant of the stories and my favorite. I wanted Jenny to know she’s loved.
Cocker at the Theatre – The shortest of the stories, it provided a chuckle.
Butterflies – The creepiness grew and grew. The second most disturbing in the book.
Conversation with a Cupboard Man – The effects of a wronged childhood. Argh.
First Love, Last Rites – Love, sex, a broken family, plus a scary rat – an unexpected combo that works.
Disguises – The only story that feels incomplete; more ought to be told.

Short stories can be such incredible tools to tell concise thoughts. This set of tales whack the reader upside the head. With the dark sensitive subjects, this book is most recommended for those who enjoy McEwan’s works and want to explore his first published piece. The writing isn’t quite as creative as his later works, but it has a rawness that will take you for a ride.

Some quotes:

On lust:
“…the blood having drained from brain to groin, literally, one might say, from sense to sensibility…”

On art – the choice of artist painted an incredibly clear picture of the writer’s intent:
“…She was beautiful in a strange almost sinister way, like a girl in a Modigliani painting.”

On sex:
“…Then once I was inside her I was moved, I was inside my fantasy, there could be no separation now of my mushrooming sensations from my knowledge that we could make a creature grow in Sissel’s belly. I had no wish to be a father, that was not in it at all. It was eggs, sperms, chromosomes, feathers, gills, claws, inches from my cock’s end the unstoppable chemistry of a creature growing out of a dark red slime, my fantasy was of being helpless before the age and strength of this process and the thought alone could make me come before I wanted.” ( )
3 vote varwenea | Jun 1, 2015 |
f you like beautifully written short stories about not-very-nice topics, then may I recommend this one to you? Incest, pedophilia, abuse, neglect - it's all here! And if the subject matter weren't bad enough, there is something almost obscene about having it rendered in such graceful writing. McEwan evokes loneliness and awkwardness and wrongness so well that the reader feels empathy and compassion for even the most beyond the pale characters. It makes for uncomfortable reading, but it's really quite an accomplishment. I'd give this collection one and a half stars for content but the writing raises it to a three-star read. I look forward, with trepidation, to reading more McEwan (the only other of his I've read is Atonement which is a favorite). ( )
2 vote katiekrug | Apr 30, 2015 |
Brilliant writing, bizarre topics. Not a pleasant collection. A disturbing group of short stories showing the seamy side of life. ( )
  Robert3167 | Dec 11, 2014 |
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Für Elaine
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Das Hausmittel: Ich sehe es wieder vor mir, unser vollgestopftes, viel zu helles Badezimmer, und Connie, die, ein Handtuch um ihre Schultern gelegt, weinend auf dem rand der Badewanne sass, während ich warmes Wasser ins Waschbecken laufen liess und - so hochgestimmt war ich - 'Teddy Bear' von Elvis Presley pfiff, ich kann mich erinnern, ich konnte mich immer erinnern, wie Wollmäuse vom Überbett auf der Wasseroberfläche strudelten, aber erst kürzlich wurde mir vollends klar, dass, wenn dies das Ende einer bestimmten Episode war - ...
Geometrie der räumlichen Gebilde: In Melton Mowbray ersteigerte mein Urgrossvater 1875 bei einer Auktion, auf der Artikel "von Seltenheits- und anderem Wert" zum Verkauf standen, in Gesellschaft seines Freundes M den Penis von Captain Nicholls, der 1873 im Horsemonger-Gefängnis gestorben war.
Letzter Sommertag: Ich bin zwölf und liege fast nackt auf dem Bauch in der Sonne auf dem Hintergartenrasen, als ich zum erstenmal höre, wie sie lacht.
Cocker im Theater: Staub lag auf den Brettern, die Kulissen waren erst zur Hälfte gemalt, alle auf der Bühne waren nackt, und die Scheinwerfer wärmten sie und machten den Staub in der Luft sichtbar.
Schmetterlinge: Am Donnerstag habe ich meine erste Leiche gesehen.
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Das Hausmittel, S. 9-44
Geometrie der räumlichen Gebilde, S. 45-80
Letzter Sommertag, S. 81-112
Cocker im Theater, S. 113-121
Schmetterlinge, S. 123-152
Gespräch mit einem Schrankmenschen, S. 153-181
Erste Liebe, letzte Riten, S. 183-208
Verkleidungen, S. 209-268

Quelle: http://www.bookreporter.de/kritiken/1... 27.12.2014
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679750193, Paperback)

Ian McEwan's Somerset Maugham Award-winning collection First Love, Last Rites brought him instant recognition as one of the most influential voices writing in England today. Taut, brooding, and densely atmospheric, these stories show us the ways in which murder can arise out of boredom, perversity can result from adolescent curiosity, and sheer evil might be the solution to unbearable loneliness. These tales are as horrifying as anything written by Clive Barker or Stephen King, but they are crafted with a lyricism and intensity that compel us to confront our secret kinship with the horrifying.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:37 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Stories revolve around ordinary people who fall victim to or become perpetrators of discomfiting, humorous, and unnerving obsessions, compulsions, and fantasies.

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