"... I have a memory of myself as a child, caressing a detail in a novel. Recalling the moment is another way of restoring faith in fiction. The experience was hypnotic, with lifelong consequences, for it showed me how the worlds of fact and fiction can interpenetrate. I was 13 years old, alone in the school library, spellbound by LP Hartley's The Go-Between. Its hero, Leo, from a poor background, spends the summer of 1900 holidaying with a school friend whose family owns a grand country house. The focus, of course, is Leo's role as a messenger in an illicit love affair. But what drew me was the July heatwave, and the little boy's fascination with the greenhouse thermometer and whether it would reach a hundred degrees. That week's copy of the satirical magazine, Punch arrives at the house and, inside, a drawing shows "Mr Punch under an umbrella, mopping his brow, while Dog Toby, with his tongue hanging out, wilted behind him."
My memory is of putting the book aside and, in an inspired move, crossing the library to where the ancient bound copies of Punch were shelved, lifting down the volume for 1900 and turning to July. And there they were, the overheated dog, the umbrella and Mr Punch pressing a handkerchief to his forehead! It was true. I was captivated, elated by the power of something both imagined and real. And briefly, I felt an unfamiliar sadness, nostalgia for a world I was excluded from. For a moment, I had been Leo, seeing what he saw, then it was 1962 again and I was at boarding school, with no lovers to run between, no heatwave and only this small remnant in a yellowing magazine..."
Excerpt from an Ian McEwan article in the Guardian on 16/02/2013. The article can be found here:
The Go-Betweens - Surfing Magazines