Colm Tóibín on Ian McEwan

From the London Review of Books:

The penis, in the contemporary novel, has been a mighty matter, looming large. Who will forget the narrator of The Bell Jar seeing an adult penis for the first time and being both fascinated and repelled? (‘The only thing I could think of was turkey neck and turkey gizzards and I felt very depressed.’) It is not hard to imagine the surprise of Florence, the girlfriend of Edward Mayhew, a nice girl in her early twenties from a nice background in Ian McEwan’s new novel, On Chesil Beach, when ‘one Saturday afternoon in late March, with the rain falling heavily outside the windows . . . she let her hand rest briefly on, or near, his penis.’ What she experienced was ‘a living thing, quite separate from her Edward – and she recoiled.’ Edward, also in his early twenties, was so excited that ‘he could bear it no more’ and asked her to marry him.

More here.