‘I opened this book with high expectations. They have been admirably fulfilled.  Here we have a stand alone thriller about two lonely people who pursue a relationship of monthly weekends together in remote spots.  Suddenly one of these two fails to get to the rendezvous-vous and the other realises how very limited her knowledge of her  companion is . . . Gradually the reader pieces together some of the facts as an atmosphere of rising tension envelops everything. The intelligent way Jay, Lisa and others plan their actions is enjoyable and the suspense of the tale is palpable.’


The flickering log fire

Posted on May 3, 2010 in clichés, Ian McEwan | No Comments

I read that Ian McEwan asks early readers of his drafts to mark clichés with the acronym FLL (short for ‘the flickering log fire’). I thought of that recently when I was reading a novel by an otherwise fine writer and was brought up short by a reference to ‘nerveless fingers.’ Once was bad enough, but I was even more surprised to come across those nerveless fingers again a few pages later.
Even Homer nods. Every writer has moments of inattention, moments when they are on autopilot. In the heat of composition they reach for something to express their meaning, and what pops into their head is – ‘nerveless fingers.’ I don’t hold it against this writer – we all do it and I am as guilty as anyone. The cliché is a symptom of lazy thinking, and hopefully is replaced by something better on the next trawl through. Sometimes though the writer simply remains blind to the cliché, doesn’t even recognise it as one. And that is what editors are for. I have been lucky with mine, who have saved me from some howlers – that’s not to say that none have still slipped through the net – but maybe it is true that generally speaking editors don’t edit as much as they used to do. A pity.

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