Edward’s End

From The New York Times:

Ian_2 They were young, educated, and both virgins on this, their wedding night, and they lived in a time when a conversation about sexual difficulties was plainly impossible. But it is never easy. The geographical distinction that marks Chesil Beach in England is the grading of the shingle — the pebbles, that is — that forms its 18 miles: the pebbles are arranged, by wind and rain, in a spectrum of sizes and textures, so that the beach forms a spatial map of time. Each stone confesses a part of its relation to the whole. Local fishermen brag of the ability to make a blind identification of the original placement, on Chesil Beach, of a given stone.

… young, educated … virgins … wedding night … sexual difficulties. The first stone on McEwan’s new beach indulges his radical efficiency with a hook. If McEwan’s first chapters generally ought to be sent, like Albert Pujols’s bats, to the Hall of Fame, then we may agree that in this instance his first sentence is a first chapter of its own, as well as doing extra duty as its host book’s perfect piece of ad copy. Then comes a second thought: But it is never easy. With startling ease these five words deepen and complicate the book. Who speaks, and from what historical vantage? The sentence entrenches the facts that precede it — and the facts to follow — in the oceanic retrospect of a ruminative mind, even as they claim to universalize the lovers’ predicament, to forgive them their place in the history of sexual discomfort.

More here.