Saturday, February 16, 2008


I wanted to get a quick revision of previous statements about Ian McEwan's novel, Saturday. I wasn't by any stretch overly critical of the book, but I had laid some faint praise on him in comparision to Umberto Eco's The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana. As I've now moved farther along in both books, I see that McEwan's is better than I first grasped, and Eco has made just a minor misstep.
While I was quite drawn in by the surreality that Eco started with, he quickly shifts away from that style for good reason. He's creating a transition for a man who is coming back to consciousness after a heartattack, and it's well done to be sure. The one point I have is that he moves too quickly and a little stiltedly away from the characters surrounding Yambo's life (our hero) to the meat of the book, which is his sifting through the books and music from his childhood as he tries to regain his lost memory. It's a wonderful idea, but the conceit of it comes out with the drastic shift away from anyone but the relics of his lost past. Otherwise, the book is so far marvelously conceived, and it is such a brilliant narrative thruline. Following him try and discern what of these magazines, books, music, etc. was he drawn to and when and how is really good stuff, so I'm just talking about the slightest of bumps in the road here.
As to McEwan and Saturday, I now see clearer what he was doing, which makes the book vastly more intriguing and captivating. His style is to contrast the mundanity of this man's life on this one particular day with really deep insights that get flung off at random times in a very prosaic way. His style reflects these shifts but in a naturally fluid way, so you just get blindsided by these really perceptive moments. It has hints of Hemingway; how he used to just floor you with this offhanded comment about how people are that was so true and penetrating. Stylistically they have very different approaches, but this one little thing that is so crucial to the power of both their writings is really becoming evident in McEwan in a way that wasn't when I first wrote about him.

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