Saturday, by Ian McEwan

This is, I think, the first work of fiction that I’ve read that is firmly rooted in a post-9/11 world. Also the first book that I’ve read by the extremely accomplished Ian McEwan.

As the title suggests, this story all takes place on a single Saturday — it’s told from the point of view of an English neurosurgeon. Some of the things that happen on this particular Saturday are mundane, some are exceptional, but it’s really just the story of this man and his relationships, at a particular point in time.

I think it’s an okay book, but not super-compelling. It is interesting to consider the huge variety of things that each and every one of us do and think about — from whether to make your own coffee, to what to have for dinner, to our place in the world, to our relationships.

He also explores pacing of fiction a little bit, in relationship to poetry (the main character’s daughter is a poet, and as a scientific type, he struggles to understand her). Here’s a quote that I particularly liked:

Novels and movies, being relentlessly modern, propel you forwards or backwards through time, through days, years or even generations. But to do its noticing and judging, poetry balances itself on the pinprick of the moment. Slowing down, stopping yourself completely, to read and understand a poem is like trying to acquire an old-fashioned skill like dry-stone walling or trout tickling.

Not that I really know what “trout tickling” is, but a nice thought, nonetheless. I’ve been thinking a fair amount about what novels are lately — will post some of that in a post soon about Jonathan Safran Foer — so this is interesting.

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