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Black Dogs: A Novel Paperback – December 29, 1998
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
-Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top Customer Reviews
While this certainly isn't a new theme (postmodernism and its subsequent backlash has provided us with a lot of reading lately), McEwan handles it creatively and respectfully. He gives us no answers and never insults our intelligence.
Finally, McEwan brings up the question of evil and how we respond to it. In one situation, our narrator would turn away from it given his choice(when Bernard faces the mob, and the narrator doesn't); in another situation, the narrator confronts evil in another, bigger man and in himself.
It is a short, worthwhile, well-crafted read.
As we see in McEwan's Atonement, Black Dogs is also about the writing of a novel. Jeremy attempts to set the record straight about his in-laws, intellectuals on opposing surfaces of the same coin. June is a romantic, a mystic, who sees life as a journey through the inner space of reflective meditation and personal awareness. Her husband is an organizer, a thinker who feels the world can be set right only through the right application of right ideas. Since both June and Bernard would rather be right than happy, and since neither could see the conceit and limitations of their own viewpoints, they wasted a lifetime of love in separate but parallel existences.
The black dogs, the central allegorical feature of the novel, are either a fact, a historical event that evolved out of the depravity of humankind (dogs tend to be rather like their handlers), or they are more symbolic features, a mythological construction representing evil, manifest as personal depression and cultural depravity. Could they be both?
Could Bernard, the arcane intellectual who would rather spend hours talking about the plight of the poor than a half our in their company, could he be a courageous, understanding man after all? Where does love go, after it has filtered through a thousand grand but irrelevant arguments? How do we stumble upon who we are and how we got here?
McEwan is a delight to read.Read more ›
Black Dogs is, unashamedly, a European novel of ideas. As Julian Barnes said, some people don't like finding ideas in novels, it is like discovering a toothpick in a sandwich (Nabokov was perhaps the most forthright proponent of this view). I happen to rather like ideas. Used wisely, they can infuse fiction with new angles, different approaches to the essential fictional subjects - stories, and the human condition that allows them to happen.
Despite the ambition though, I don't think the novel is one of McEwan's greatest. There is so much packed in that the main characters - Bernard and June, the couple on which the book is centred, don't have sufficient room to breathe. They come across more as paragons of particular ideas and personality types McEwan is interested in exploring - intellectual vs practical thinker, reason vs spirituality, subjective vs objective truth, scorpions v dragonflies (used in two separate, vivid scenes to show the difficulty of pinning down truth, and the cruelty humans are capable of inflicting).
Sometimes, in those sublime Proustian sentences McEwan is capable of crafting, the prose soars, such as the description of the fall of the Berlin wall: 'East Berliners in nylon anoraks and bleached-out jeans jackets, pushing buggies of holding their children's hands, were filing past Checkpoint Charlie, unchecked..Two sisters clung to each other and wouldn't be parted for an interview.' But too often the story is clogged by a little too much neat, earnest philosophizing, and not enough fictional passion.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
As the master of construction McEwan brings out everything that reveals how all of us are constructed.
A compelling book.
"War always finds a way" Bertolt Brecht. A great book for our leaders afflicted with short memories and for the visionaries blinded by idealism.Published 1 month ago by Wuzzdaddy
Entertaining initially but lacked sufficient depth and build out if the story line. Felt like author was in a hurry to finish the book.Published 2 months ago by Amy Cappellanti-Wolf
Seemed a bit self-indulgent, even though I'm a huge McEwan fan. Not his best.Published 3 months ago by Rod W.
This was a wonderful story about a family and the impact of World War 2 on the family and every one else who was touched by the war.Published 10 months ago by russell sudeith
How is it that McEwan, in so few pages, packs a roller coaster of feelings, experiences, effortlessly embedding the reader intimately, and immediately, in the protagonist"s life... Read morePublished 13 months ago by Bif
A total winner, a master story-teller's description of persons for whom communication is so terribly difficult. Read morePublished 15 months ago by William W. B. Veale