Obscure Box

Thoughts from inside the obscure box

June 3, 2008

Ooopps Ian McEwan's new story already penned by someone else

Posted by : Michael Lund
Filed under : Media, Online, Print
Ian McEwan by Eamon McCabe

Ian McEwan by Eamon McCabe

British author Ian McEwan must have been surprised when reading an excerpt from his new - yet un-named book - to an audience in the UK, only to be told his story had already been told by someone else many years before.

The Australian has the best coverage in "Writer Ian McEwan's train tale may get shunted" (Tuesday 3 June 2008).

Journalist Peter Wilson says McEwan was delivering a reading at the popular book festival Hay On Wye, on the England, mid-Wales border.

The episode involved the novel's main character, a Nobel prize-winning scientist, eating a packet of crisps on a train and being shocked when a muscular young man starts eating from the same packet and staring straight at him.

The scientist, Michael Beard, feels threatened by this audacity but keeps eating from the packet and eventually musters up the courage to respond aggressively to the young man.

It is only after leaving the train that the scientist realises his crisps are in his pocket, meaning he had in fact been eating from the other man's packet.

Anyone who has read the hilarious works of Douglas Adams and his famous Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy would instantly recognise the tale as one very similar to that experienced by the story's troubled hero Arthur Dent in the forth book, So Long, and Thanks For All The Fish.

So Long and Thanks for all the Fish

So Long and Thanks for all the Fish

(Yes forth book in a trilogy, the one before the final fifth book. Keep up!)

Dent's story involves a packet of biscuits and a wait at a train station.

He recounts the story to Fenchurch (his true love) about the time he was doing a crossword puzzle in a newspaper, sitting opposite another man and the two were taking it in turns to eat what Deent thought was his packet of biscuits.

Neither said a word to each other, despite Dent's increasing frustration.

Arthur Dent: "When the empty packet was lying dead between us the man at last got up, having done his worst, and left. I heaved a sigh of relief, of course. As it happened, my train was announced a moment or two later, so I finished my coffee, stood up, picked up the newspaper, and underneath the newspaper ..."

Fenchurch: "Yes?"

Dent: "Were my biscuits."

There is no mention of whether or not McEwan has ever read the works of Adams, a much better read than McEwan's work anyway, but there is considerable chatter on his forum.

No doubt the crisp tale will crumble and fall out of his yet-to-released latest book.

Adams would probably be amused.

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All thoughts and comments here are the honestly held personal opinion of Michael Lund and are based on the information available at the time of publication.