Although I have read Barnes and McEwan fairly extensively, I find myself agreeing with Josipovici’s argument:
Reading Barnes, like reading so many other English writers of his generation – Martin Amis, McEwan – leaves me feeling that I and the world have been made smaller and meaner. The irony which at first made one smile, the precision of language which was at first so satisfying, the cynicism which at first was used only to puncture pretension, in the end come to seem like a terrible constriction, a fear of opening oneself up to the world.
The insight of that analysis is precise and powerful.
Josipovici also summarised my own recent response to Sarah Hall’s How to Paint a Dead Man:
While great novels deal with complex events beyond the full understanding of both the characters and the reader, too many contemporary works follow traditional plots with neat endings, he said.
Referring to graduates, like McEwan, of the University of East Anglia’s famous creative writing course, Josipovici said: “They all tell stories in a way that is well crafted, but that is almost the most depressing aspect of it — a careful craft which seems to me to be hollow.”
Its all a tad depressing having two favourite authors lowered from their pedestals, but Josipovici describes the process of disillusion with considerable insight. The criticism is timely. I have been pondering what serious novel I can read with any conviction after reading Ulysses. Joyce’s book makes so much that I planned to read paler by reflection.
I am looking forward to reading Josipovici’s forthcoming What Ever Happened to Modernism?