I was packing away the file, too tired to face another story [of Haley’s]. I’d experienced a peculiar form of narrative sadism. Alfredus may have earned the narrowing of his life, but Haley had driven him into the ground. Misanthropy or self-loathing—were they entirely distinct?—must be part of his makeup. I was discovering that the experience of reading is skewed when you know, or are about to know, the author. I had been inside a stranger’s mind.

Ian McEwan, Sweet Tooth