In a joint interview, Martin Amis and Ian McEwan discuss their writing in The Daily Telegraph. We all feel the pressure of time more these days, says Amis, “and for a very good reason. There’s been an acceleration in one event following the other in our modern world, and writing reflects that… the arrow of plot and development has to be much sharper than it used to be. The great wallowing baggy monster where you follow various digressions – that’s gone, too.”
Amis adds that as he grows older, reading the proofs of his last novel is “torment”: he wants to move on to the next.
“I don’t know if you had a period of this [he says to McEwan], but in the old days, in the Seventies and Eighties, if I had no date or arrangement in an evening, I would think that a bottle of wine and a five-hour read of me was the dream night.”
“Now it’s five bottles of wine and no read of you,” says McEwan.
Now “the thought of snuggling down to my early work (laughs) would horrify me,” says Amis, “especially as sitting on my shelves are not only all the books that I haven’t read, but all the books that I want to reread, by other writers.”
McEwan says he doesn’t read his own novels. “I don’t look because it just doesn’t interest me… Partly it’s because we’re required to be constantly explaining ourselves [to interviewers], which ultimately anaesthetises you against your own work.”
Discussing his latest book, The Children Act, on Radio 4, McEwan said he thinks most contemporary novels are too long. He prefers shorter ones which can be read in one sitting. “Very few really long novels earn their length. My fingers are always itching for a blue pencil [to edit them].”
Martin Amis and Ian McEwan discuss what inspired their latest respective novels The Zone of Interest and The Children Act: