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Would He Publish It Today
on 4 February 2003
"In Between The Sheets", was published in 1978 following two very highly prized and one award-winning book by Mr. McEwan. I have become a great admirer of his more recent work so; I had gone back to read some of his earliest published books including this collection of short stories. The book is physically small and brief at 153 pages, and what it contains even less of is substance.
Seven short stories are contained and only the last even begins to rise to the level of mildly interesting, but it too quickly dissolves in to a bit of trivia. When reading an early collection like this I often wonder if it was published to fill a demand for who was then a new hot sensation of a writer, and secondly would it ever see publication today? My guess is the first question would be answered as yes, and the second would be not a chance. Mr. McEwan has become a writer that has an international reputation as a very good author, it is deserved, and he has been honored repeatedly for his work. Nothing of the present author can be found in this book.
In the late 1970's or whenever these stories were read there were probably trendy bits of hip phrasing that would be used to describe and justify these stories. But as with most trends they lack substance and fade as quickly as they arrive. I suppose surreal could be applied to some of the tales, but others would have different ideas about bestiality as shared in the story, "Reflections of a Kept Ape". The story, "Pornography", has been played out so many times in real life that it fails to even mildly shock. "In Between The Sheets", the short story, is simply the nadir in a book of stories competing for descriptions of the most dysfunctional human behavior. I cannot say any more here as it would be unprintable no matter how it was phrased. But unlike some stories of its type is does not create any interest, and in that way is beautifully consistent with the balance of the collection.
I have spent as much time with Mr. McEwen's early works (3 books) that I will ever spend. I look forward to new work but backtracking to his earliest offerings has been unrewarding.