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Beyond the book with Ian McEwan

Special to the DailyBritish author Ian McEwan, and his new book "On Chesil Beach," is the focus of a film showing at The Bookworm on Wednesday.
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Losing your virginity is oft-times not the smooth, fulfilling, ecstacy-inducing occasion twitterpated teens dream about. Rather it’s likely all fumbled buttons, banged knees and mismatched timing.

Ian McEwan, Britian’s acclaimed novelist, takes a day in the life of two young virgins, freshly married in the pre-sexual-revolution summer of 1962, and transforms it into a poignant novella called “On Chesil Beach.” The gray-haired, piercing-eyed McEwan and his newest book is the focus of a 23-minute film produced by Out of the Book productions and Powell’s Books. The film is the first in a series of short films about authors and their work. This week The Bookworm, along with bookstores around the country, will show the film and host discussions afterwards.

It’s not often that you get to hear an author of McEwan’s status read his words aloud. With a towering shelf of books in his London home as the backdrop, McEwan reads the astonishingly intimate details of the couple’s life, aloud. In the first line, it’s plain to see the larger premise of the novel:



“They were young, educated and both virgins, on this, their wedding night, and they lived in a time when the conversation about sexual difficulties was plainly impossible.”

Really, the slim novel could double as a pamphlet on the benefits of pre-wedding couples therapy, as Salon writer Ed Park cleverly pointed out in his review.



The book’s two characters, Florence, an aspiring violinist, and Edward, a recent university graduate, arrive at the Dorset coast in southern England to celebrate their honeymoon. Married that morning, the young couple anticipate their marriage consumation quite differently ” she’s equal parts nauseated and terrified and he ” well, he pretty much asked Florence to marry him so he could finally get her in the sack, so despite some first-time jitters, you can imagine his fervor.

Today the virgins-at-age-22 is a scenario that we imagine plays out less than it did 100 or even 50 years ago. But that doesn’t make the book any less interesting or relevant, said Nicole Magistro, co-owner of The Bookworm.

“In some ways (the topic) is so traditional it seems far away from us, but so far the parts I’ve read have been very human. There are some great lines in it as well ” he always tends to wax somewhat philosophical. It says, ‘this is how the entire course of a life can be changed, by doing nothing.’ He always has those little nuggets ” he’s a real writer’s writer.”



In anticipation of the event, Magistro and her staff have been passing around a copy of the book and most have really liked it ” “which is good because his books can be esoteric.”

It’s a quick read at under 200 pages, she said.

“The focus is on two characters, where as in (McEwan’s) other books there are a tribe of characters and you get to know each one deeply,” she said.

Following the film, Summit-based CMC professor Joyce Mosher, who has been teaching literature for 32 years, will lead a discussion about McEwan and the novel.

It’s not necessary to read the book before attending the event, said Fraidy Aber, Vail Symposium director and organizer of the event.

“This could be a great intro into (McEwan’s) works for some people,” Aber said.

And don’t worry, if you do want to read the book but haven’t had a chance yet, the movie won’t spoil the ending.

Caramie Schnell can be reached at 748-2984 or cschnell@vaildaily.com.

Click on the link on vaildaily.com to see a trailer for the movie.


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