Well. Did I did learn a couple of things. One: I'm not like Ian McEwan. Two: I don't want to write like Ian McEwan. Three: I wish I had McEwan's sales figures.
The other thing that struck me was something McEwan said when he talked about his early writing., which was along the lines of during his first four books he was under the misapprehension that you should not show a character's interior thoughts. And that clearly he changed his mind. Martin Amis said something along the same lines last week, talking about theme in his own writing - that when one has written a few books then you can go back and have a look at the preoccupations that unite them all. I find this very reassuring because I still feel I'm learning about writing, and clearly both of them learnt from their early books that then helped them go on and write more.
As far as the rest of the lunch: very pleasant, and McEwan was a good deal more humourous than his work might make you think. I even went so far as to buy his latest book, Chesil Beach, but found it hard to get through the first sentence without being repelled. No other writer has this affect on me - of turning me off immediately - and I tried to work out why and pushed on further into the book, and it's the narratorial voice I dislike, which is irritatingly all-knowing.
Still, Passing Under Heaven and Ciao Asmara both went into their second impression this week, which is great news, and I'm struggling against the deadline for a couple of short stories, which seems a much more difficult style of writing than writing books. Got a very exciting March coming up, with a tour of China's lit fests, from Hong Kong to Beijing, Chengdu, Shanghai and Suzhou. Strangely, it's the thought of the various foods I'll be eating along the way that is exciting me most. But food, intelligent conversation, and fine wine are about as good a combination as you can find. Which strangely brings me back to the lunch. More please!