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When You’re Writing An Essay About Your Dad’s Novel…

Let’s say your dad’s a famous novelist. Let’s say you’re taking a literature class and your professor asks you to write an essay on your dad’s novel—presumably, without knowing about your dad.

Do you ask your dad for help writing the essay?

Ian McEwan’s son did when he was given the assignment of writing an essay about his dad’s novel, Enduring Love.

The funny part? He got a C on the essay because the professor disagreed with his interpretation of the novel.

As Ian McEwan explains it:

“I gave him some key points…and he got a very low mark. It was C or below. I think quite wrongly because, correct me if I’m wrong, I don’t know how one should mark sixth-form papers but it’s from the presentation of the ideas, not the ideas themselves. I think one of his tutors thought the stalker in enduring love carried the authorial moral center of the novel, whereas I thought he was a complete madman.”

Beautiful.

You have to wonder if McEwan’s son ever went back to his professor and said, “Well, you know, my dad’s the author of the book and he said…”

To watch the full clip, go over to The Guardian.

(Image: Salon)

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20 Comments Post a comment
  1. Reblogged this on A year in books and commented:
    Υπέροχο, θα ήθελα να μαι κόρη συγγραφέα μόνο για μια αντίστοιχη στιγμή απόλυτης ευχαρίστησης. Γενικά, αντλώ υπερβολικά πολύ ευχαρίστηση από κάτι τέτοια, μάλλον δεν είναι υγιές.

    Like

    May 20, 2013
  2. Love it! Classic scene in Annie Hall when an obnoxious movie goer is going on about his interpretation of the film they are about to see and Woody disagrees and then in his fantasy brings in the actual director to back up his opinion, “You know nothing of my work.” Best ever and one of my all time fantasies. I really hope the son brings dad to class some day.

    Like

    May 20, 2013
    • I know. Would love to see that meeting!

      Like

      May 20, 2013
    • It was Marshall McLuhan, author, teacher, critic, all-around media guru — but yes, that would be awesome.

      Like

      May 20, 2013
      • That’s right – Marshall McLuhan not the director! I had forgotten – but can almost do the dialogue by heart. Such a great moment.

        Like

        May 21, 2013
  3. This is pretty funny. It just goes to show that as an author, you don’t have the authoritative voice in how people will interpret the work. I often wonder how people will interpret the things I’m writing and how I will deal with it when they interpret it “wrongly.” I agree that it’s more about the presentation of ideas and the support of those ideas from the work than it is about whether you interpret it in the same way as another, even the author.

    I remember reading “The Pink Ribbon” by A.S. Byatt in college and all of our theories on the Fetch. When she came to speak at our school and we got to ask her what it meant, we realized that a Fetch was an English term with a similar meaning to doppelgänger. All of our philosophical musings just made it much more complicated than the author meant it to be.

    Like

    May 20, 2013
    • Yeah I think part of the reason literature is so interesting is interpretation. I think once the work is in the public domain the author takes a back seat (after all s/he may have been influenced by a number of things subconsciously when writing). But I also agree that you can be too anal with it, if you try to find deep meaning lurking behind every syllable…

      Like

      May 21, 2013
  4. itsthelitchick #

    That is just hilarious, my dad is an author and he refuses to let me read his stuff… I wonder if this is why!

    Like

    May 20, 2013
  5. How disappointing that a professor would disagree on substance. The idea is to have students think originally and then back up the concepts with evidence and explanation in some structured manner.That much can be graded. Beyond that, professor, step back and embrace the diversity of thought.

    Like

    May 20, 2013
    • I agree. I would love to hear his explanation, but what an unfair way to approach grading an essay.

      Like

      May 21, 2013
  6. I wonder how many times teachers have misunderstood or mistake the author’s meaning and therefore transformed the intended piece???

    Like

    May 20, 2013
  7. Jake #

    Well, there goes letting my kids edit my work anymore.

    Like

    May 20, 2013
  8. Hilarious!

    Like

    May 21, 2013
  9. I’m surprised by this teacher. The thing about interpretation is that you can interpret however you want, but you need to explain how you got the interpretation. A C for thinking and expressing his thoughts… I really don’t agree with that. Anything dealing with interpretation of a book, a movie, an object or whatever (in my opinion) should really just be graded as a completion mark. Hand it in and you pass. Don’t hand it in and you fail. It’s just that there are so many ideas that one can get out of a book; to say that it’s incorrect because it isn’t your own is just ignorant.

    Like

    May 21, 2013
  10. Lovely story. If I was the son, I would have brought McEwan to the next lecture, and watched him and the lecturer go toe-to-toe.

    Like

    May 21, 2013
  11. katiefrazer92 #

    I think this is hilarious! I always feared that because I want to publish novels worth writing about, even taught alongside great texts like this, but I also want to teach Literature, that I may one day have to mark essays written on my own novels. I think those kids would be very unimpressed!

    Like

    May 23, 2013
  12. Reblogged this on The faboulous world of…me and commented:
    Ha, I love it!!! Although I can’t say I am a massive fan of Ian McEwan, but maybe I will give him another chance after reading this…

    Like

    June 1, 2013
  13. Badger #

    Am I the only one thinking of the 80s movie with Rodney Dangerfield, “Back To School,” where he hires Kurt Vonnegut to write his paper on Slaughterhouse 5?

    Professor: “I gave you an F because you clearly didn’t write it. And whoever did doesn’t know the first thing about Kurt Vonnegut!!”

    Dangerfield (later to Vonnegut, by telephone): “I’m stopping payment on that check – next time, I’ll get Robert Ludlum!”

    Like

    August 16, 2013
  14. I think that if the teacher knew beforehand that he was the son of the author, the grade would have been different. Amusing and endearing at the same time. – Marl of Aussiessay.com

    Like

    May 19, 2014

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