Many would be familiar Ian McEwan's 'Atonement' (2001) which was made into a film in 2007 directed by Joe Wright, starring Keira Knightley, James McAvoy, and Saoirse Ronan. I finally got around to reading Ian McEwan's 1975 collection of fairly morbid short stories 'First Love, Last Rites'.
Incest, children roasting cats on a spit, murder, pedophiles, the author brought out all the dark and twisted realms of the human mind. To that, I'm not sure if I should even call any story within 'a favorite'. But it made for a very good read on vacation. The title story 'First Love, Last Rites' is confusing. It's not creepy. It's like...plain. A summer romance between two young adults that developed into something more steady, and a rat in the walls of their room. I didn't quite understand why. Is it the mundane life that the author is fascinated with or how his characters seem to be so soul-less, but not committing any heinous act or go under torture?
'Conversation with a Cupboard Man' is so sad. Of a grown man who hasn't been allowed to grow up normally because his obviously disturbed mother tried to keep him infantile when he was already eighteen years old, keeping him out of school and literally spoon-feeding him. Till he appears to be mentally sub-normal to the average world outside of his home and comfort zone. When he tries to be independent, society fails him, humans fail him, his demented boss locked him in a huge kitchen oven and turned on the heat. Ouch. He even enjoyed jail-time because he was taken care of and stuck to a schedule. He didn't have to fend for himself.
Ever since the oven, I want to be contained. I want to be small. I don't want this noise and these people all around me. I want to be out of all that, in the dark. Do you see that wardrobe there, takes up most of this room? If you look inside you won't find any clothes hanging up. It's full of cushions and blankets. I go in there, I lock the door behind me and sit in the darkness for hours. That must sound pretty stupid to you. I feel all right in there. I don't get bored or anything, I just sit. Sometimes I wish the wardrobe would get up and walk around and forget that I was in there. At first I went in there only very occasionally but then it got more and more frequent till I started spending whole nights in there. I did not want to come out in the mornings either so I was late for work. Then I stopped going to work altogether. It's three months since I've been. I hate going outside. I prefer it in my cupboard.
The last story 'Disguises' irritated me to no end because of its ambiguous ending. ARRRRGH. Henry's mother passed away and he's taken in by his probably talented and eccentric actress Aunt Mina who makes a big deal of dressing up in stage costumes for dinner. Henry went along with it till one night the Aunt forced him to cross-dress as a pretty lass and she was a male soldier. Henry didn't like it. He was eventually taken with Linda, a new transfer student. That kickstarted the 'rebellion' against Aunt Mina and taking a stand to say no to her emotional blackmail.
She took her hand off his shoulder, she sat on the bottom step, and then, 'And what am I meant to do on Sunday when you're off with all your friends?' This sudden change, he was the giver when before he was the asker, he was standing and she was sitting by his feet, there was nothing to say, he was numb. After a while she said, 'Well?' stretching her hand towards him, he moved a little closer till he was where she could take both his hands in hers, and she looked at him over her glasses, she took them off, and he saw then the moisture collecting in her eyes' rims. That was wrong, that was a terrible thing, a terrible weight on him now he felt, can people be so important? She squeezed his hands tighter, 'All right,' he said, 'I'll stay.'