AN UNRELIABLE NARRATOR
My impressions of SOLAR, a novel by Ian MacEwan.
I always wondered what an “unreliable narrator” in fiction sounded like. I think the protagonist of SOLAR might be an unreliable narrator, although the main character described everything from his point of view, so was he really unreliable? Was he not just honest about his feelings and thoughts?
This character, Michael Beard, a nasty little character, would be even more awful as a person if the author had made his deliberations obvious lies, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. As it is, I had already trouble to finish the novel about Beard and his machinations, due to this character’s cerebral personality, his rational mind, and his unethical conduct, among others, his duplicity and his lies to the people in his world. I put the book aside a few times in disgust.
Because as a writer, I have to become an accomplished reader of literature in a broad variety of genres in creative writing, I forced myself into giving the novel another try—three times. To give myself a break from MacEwan’s novel, I was reading another book at the same time, a story written in the completely different genre of magical realism: Luis Alberto Urrea’s novel, The House of Broken Angels.
I struggled through and finished MacEwan’s novel yesterday. The novel’ is written in the third person, of the voice of the main character, Michael Beard. He is what we now would call the typical #metoo male, a member of the group of males whose bad behaviours accumulated into the #metoo movement. Beard is a white-privileged male, full of himself, abusive and exploiting women, unable to really allow any charity towards women or men, or even have a bit of empathy for his wives, and with just possibly only the tiniest speck of attachment to his three-year-old daughter after failing to coerce his lover into an abortion. Especially because the character Beard was described as an unattractive and fat man, I could not suspend my disbelief that such a toady pig was able to attract the interest of these beautiful women—very beautiful, and not even professional entertainers/call girls—except his last lover.
I am not sure what the benefit was for me of reading this novel, except how to learn to exactly and precisely use language to express an idea. I am not sure if the emotional work reading it was worth it. I have known many like this type of man and do not like them, have no affinity with them, and do not want to spend any time in their presence. During my dating time, I met them and they didn’t get a second date. I don’t care if they are talented, rich, or famous. Who needs them?
And yet, Michael Beard was able to fuck a large number of women and marry/shack up with five, without so much as losing half of his assets in divorce proceedings. That makes me identify the character of Michael Beard as an unreliable narrator, as in real life he would be quite poor after 5 divorces/separation agreements, let alone have his lovers want him so unapologetically and desperately. It is his DREAM world if truth be told. I read one other novel by him and had the same experience: Enduring Love.
SOLAR is meant to be a satirical work about one man’s greed and self-deception, the flap states. Maybe it is satirical for a man to read about Michael Beard, the embodiment of a man’s desires, but I’ll pass any other of MacEwan’s works from now on. Life is too short for that aggravation. Ans yet, he is a well-liked and prolific author, I suppose with mostly male readers, but I might be wrong.
I would like to hear what you think and welcome your comments.