Global warming summons Ian McEwan's not quite comic touch
by Ian McEwan
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Once upon a time, Ian McEwan was content to snare readers with his literary gamesmanship and stun them into submission with his talent for revealing the unsettling and irresistibly deviant appetites that undergird life. Thanks to early books like First Love, Last Rites (1975), The Cement Garden (1978), and The Comfort of Strangers (1981) and their tightly plotted agonies of flesh and mind, the press gave McEwan the nickname Ian Macabre. While the exact point of progression is arguable, ever since his missing-child epic, The Child in Time (1987), McEwan has undertaken a much larger, more ambitious project with his fiction: to capture the real in the name of relevance. And not just the usual domestic matter that is realism's bread and butter, but all of it—from quantum physics and mechanics to cold-war-era European politics to forensic psychology to postmodern studies to neurosurgery to British poetry to Delta blues to the limited dining choices and sexual hang-ups of honeymooners in the south of England in the early '60s. That's just a partial list; among McEwan's other acquisitions is the radiologically specific habit of building his characters from their bones, tendons, and organs outward.
Fittingly, McEwan has earned a studyful of international prizes for his best-selling work and has entered into the stratosphere of authors who travel the world first-class. It seems an auspicious creative choice, then, that McEwan employs this high-flying milieu for the backdrop of Solar, his first extended foray into portraying the climate-change crisis—and a rare venture into comedy,