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In Between the Sheets [Hardcover]

Ian Mc Ewan , Ian McEwan
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 1979
The second collection of short stories.

Call them transcripts of dreams or deadly accurate maps of the tremor zones of the psyche, the seven stories in this collection engage and implicate us in the most fearful ways imaginable. A two-timing pornographer becomes an unwilling object in the fantasies of one of his victims. A jaded millionaire buys himself the perfect mistress and plunges into a hell of jealousy and despair.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Review

“His stories are so resonant and frightening because they are totally original. They are about the recognizable world of private fantasy and nightmare -- a world, despite our protestations to the contrary, we are all involved in.” -- Paul Bailey, Observer

“McEwan proves himself to be an acute psychologist of the ordinary mind.” -- New York Times

"His stories are so resonant and frightening because they are totally original. They are about the recognizable world of private fantasy and nightmare -- a world, despite our protestations to the contrary, we are all involved in." -- The Times

"The style recalls some dangerous activity: skillful driving too fast round corners, say -- Form and content are so intricately linked you can't divide them. This is a writer whose plainest combination of words is, like the draughtsman's proverbial dot, unmistakably telling." -- Financial Times

"His writing is exact, tender, funny, voluptuous, disturbing." -- The Times

"The Maestro." -- New Statesman

"McEwan has -- a style and a vision of life of his own...No one interested in the state and mood of contemporary Britain can afford not to read him." -- John Fowles

"A sparkling and adventurous writer." -- Dennis Potter --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From the Back Cover

“His stories are so resonant and frightening because they are totally original. They are about the recognizable world of private fantasy and nightmare -- a world, despite our protestations to the contrary, we are all involved in.” -- Paul Bailey, Observer

“McEwan proves himself to be an acute psychologist of the ordinary mind.” -- New York Times

"His stories are so resonant and frightening because they are totally original. They are about the recognizable world of private fantasy and nightmare -- a world, despite our protestations to the contrary, we are all involved in." -- The Times

"The style recalls some dangerous activity: skillful driving too fast round corners, say -- Form and content are so intricately linked you can't divide them. This is a writer whose plainest combination of words is, like the draughtsman's proverbial dot, unmistakably telling." -- Financial Times

"His writing is exact, tender, funny, voluptuous, disturbing." -- The Times

"The Maestro." -- New Statesman

"McEwan has -- a style and a vision of life of his own...No one interested in the state and mood of contemporary Britain can afford not to read him." -- John Fowles

"A sparkling and adventurous writer." -- Dennis Potter --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.2 out of 5 stars
3.2 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Ian McEwan has always been the doyen of the macabre. In this, his second collection of stories, his language can be both resonant ('I do not care for posturing women but she "struck" me') and profane ('I love the scent asparagus lends the urine'). Whether describing the 'love' of a tailor's dummy or bondage games in a metropolitan setting, McEwan's prose is masterly and his insights unsettling. Excellent but not as great as his earlier volume, 'First Love, Last Rites.'
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3.0 out of 5 stars More Bookish Thoughts... March 21 2013
By Reader Writer Runner TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
In one of his earliest short story collections, gifted author Ian McEwan flaunts his status as King of the macabre. He keeps a straight face as he twists romantic relationships into obscene exploits, a technique which proves intriguing but not exactly absorbing.

A stay-at-home narrator pines for his busy lover's attention, a lover who happens to be a gibbering ape capable of writing immaculate prose. A man falls in love with a mannequin. A divorced father straddles the line between parental and erotic love for his tween daughter. Along with other fragmentary pieces, "In Between the Sheets" does not represent McEwan at his best. Nonetheless, die hard fans will appreciate its quirkiness and recognize that it accurately reflects the sexually eruptive atmosphere of the 1970s.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Good premise, but a weak follow-through Dec 17 2001
By Craig
Format:Paperback
In these sketches, McEwan examines sexual and relationship dysfunctions. Each story has a bizarre twist-- which the characters never seem to recognize as strange-- that is used to emphasize the futility of human emotion. The effect is similar to "magical realism," where an author uses supernatural elements but treats them as commonplace. Here are a few examples:
"Tales of a Kept Ape" is told in first-person, through the eyes of a frustrated lover who cannot understand why the woman he adores has alienated herself from his affections. Bizarre twist: The jilted lover is a pet ape the woman has been sleeping with.
In the title story, a middle aged divorced father worries that his fourteen year old daughter has fallen into a lesbian relationship with an older woman. Bizarre twist: The older woman is a three-foot dwarf.
In "Dead as They Come", we watch an obsessive, arrogant millionaire fall madly in love with a woman, only to destroy the relationship out of uncontrollable jealousy. Bizarre twist: The woman is a department store mannequin.
My complaint of these stories is that the bizarre "twists" are never explicitly dealt with by the characters. It's as if McEwan wants us to believe that loving an ape, or a dwarf, or a mannequin is no less strange (or less hopeless) than loving another human being. So, each tale becomes a plodding, why-can't-we-get-along diatribe that is neither interesting nor enlightening.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
If I had only read "Two Fragments: March 199-" and "To and Fro" from this early collection of short stories when they were published in 1978 by one of my favorite writers, I would have read no more and would have missed out on his later wonderful novels. These two stories should be forgotten. Mr. McEwan turns up the heat in three of his stories, which I would label the bizarre. "Pornography" is the tale of O'Bryne who is having a sexual affair with two women simultaneously. When each woman finds out about the other, O'Bryne meets his Waterloo as the two women descend on him, tie him up and sterilize surgical instruments. "Reflections of a Kept Ape" is told from the viewpoint of an ape, a former lover of his mistress. The narrator in "Dead as They Come" is in love with a store mannequin, whom he purchases and takes home with him. The remaining two stories are beautiful and good indicators of what is to come in McEwan's later fiction. "In Between the Sheets" is a sexually charged account a father whose fourteen-year-old daughter and her midget girl friend visit him. The two girls are involved in something resembling a lesbian relationship or maybe it's just a "phase" teenage girls go through. There are also undertones of incest in this emotionally tense story. The title has multiple layers of meaning, something we have come to expect in McEwan's novels. He apparently has coined a phrase in "Psychopolis." The narrator is a Brit living briefly in California. While there he meets Mary, who works in a feminist bookstore in Venice and whom he chains to the foot of his bed for a weekend-- at her request. There is also George Malone who owns a shop under the narrator's apartment in Santa Monica,a shop specializing in items "for party givers" and equipment for sickrooms. Read more ›
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 2.7 out of 5 stars  16 reviews
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Introspective but brilliant short story collection. Dec 26 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Ian McEwan has always been the doyen of the macabre. In this, his second collection of stories, his language can be both resonant ('I do not care for posturing women but she "struck" me') and profane ('I love the scent asparagus lends the urine'). Whether describing the 'love' of a tailor's dummy or bondage games in a metropolitan setting, McEwan's prose is masterly and his insights unsettling. Excellent but not as great as his earlier volume, 'First Love, Last Rites.'
13 of 18 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Good premise, but a weak follow-through Dec 17 2001
By Craig - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
In these sketches, McEwan examines sexual and relationship dysfunctions. Each story has a bizarre twist-- which the characters never seem to recognize as strange-- that is used to emphasize the futility of human emotion. The effect is similar to "magical realism," where an author uses supernatural elements but treats them as commonplace. Here are a few examples:
"Tales of a Kept Ape" is told in first-person, through the eyes of a frustrated lover who cannot understand why the woman he adores has alienated herself from his affections. Bizarre twist: The jilted lover is a pet ape the woman has been sleeping with.
In the title story, a middle aged divorced father worries that his fourteen year old daughter has fallen into a lesbian relationship with an older woman. Bizarre twist: The older woman is a three-foot dwarf.
In "Dead as They Come", we watch an obsessive, arrogant millionaire fall madly in love with a woman, only to destroy the relationship out of uncontrollable jealousy. Bizarre twist: The woman is a department store mannequin.
My complaint of these stories is that the bizarre "twists" are never explicitly dealt with by the characters. It's as if McEwan wants us to believe that loving an ape, or a dwarf, or a mannequin is no less strange (or less hopeless) than loving another human being. So, each tale becomes a plodding, why-can't-we-get-along diatribe that is neither interesting nor enlightening.
8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Best forgotten - not even for big McEwan fans ! Dec 6 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I'm a big, big fan of Ian McEwan's. I've read and loved virtually everything he's written, especially "Black Dogs" and "Atonement", so it's doubly disappointing for me to say that "In Between The Sheets", his second collection of short stories, is without doubt the worst and only substandard piece of work he has put out so far. Granted, what we have here is very early McEwan but that doesn't excuse the amateurish and shoddy quality of these mostly pointless vignettes. "First Love, Last Rites", his earliest work, wasn't McEwan at his prime but it was more than halfway decent and contained more than a trace of promise of his developing craft as a short story writer and novelist. "In Between The Sheets" just seems like scraping the bottom of the barrel.
I can't name anything in here that is remotely memorable. Indeed, it was so bad I hardly finished the book. "Pornography" is mundane and pedestrian. It's been done to death (and better) by others. "Reflections Of A Kept Ape" almost succeeds - could the ape be the retarded child of the woman ? are the ape's sexual fantasies just its hallucination ? I haven't a clue what "Two Fragments" is all about. "Dead As They Come" is ludicrous. By the time I got to "In Between The Sheets", I lost interest and couldn't wait for this slim volume to end.
The publishers should quietly delete this title from McEwan's catalogue as it diminishes his tall standing among the great contemporary writers of today.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Liked but not loved Dec 30 2013
By Christopher Sullivan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is a collection of seven short stories by Ian McEwan from 1978. The main theme that runs through the book is sex. The sexually activity is within the spectrum of kinky and depraved. However, it could also be looked upon as pornographic but without the titillation. What I mean by that is that most of the sex is suggested but not always described in great detail. But, it could be construed as pornographic simply due to whom and what is described as having the sex. There is sex between a man and a mannequin; between a woman and an ape and the wet dreams of a man that involve a pre-pubescent girl.
I tried so hard to not use the following adjectives to describe the book; `dark' and `disturbing' as I am sure they have been used many times to describe this set of short stories. However, it is almost impossible not to use the afore-mentioned adjectives as they perfectly describe two major aspects of the book.
I believe the book reflects Great Britain during 1977 and 1978. The country was beset with strikes, IRA bombings, political unrest, the `Winter of Discontent' was just around the corner, the gaining popularity of the Conservative party, (The Thatcher era was only a year away), and women's palpable fear of the Yorkshire Ripper. There is one story in the book of a dystopian future set in Great Britain. But attitudes to sex in the seventies were a bigger threat.
The seventies are seen by many historians as the decade that saw an explosion of promiscuity, abortion and pornography. The pill became widely used in the seventies and so it appeared as if everyone was having sex with anyone. Sex became recreational rather than perfunctory. But of course this sexual promiscuity had a dark (there is that word again) element; abortion, women scared to say no due to peer pressure or not wanting to appear repressed, increased illegitimacy and women losing their sense of autonomy. Many novels of the seventies depicted sexual violence such as `A Clockwork Orange' by Anthony Burgess.
In Ian McEwan's book of short stories the stories depict most of the male characters as unable to differentiate between lust and love. The male appendage for most of the male characters does most of the thinking leaving the brain in neutral like so many idling cars: the engine is running but the car is not moving.
In Between the Sheets is a perversely envisioned account of sex and in the male of the species. The stories articulate the era of the seventies and also resonate in the 21st century with the growth of the internet and continuing sexualisation of women and in particular young girls.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Way less provocative than First Love, Last Rites... Jan. 29 2008
By Erkan Saka - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Not as good as or as provocative as the other short story volume (First Love, Last Rites), but still worth reading...
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