In any event, trying to come up with punchy blurbs for the bookstore's shelves, I have been reading Ellis Sharp's review of Ian McEwan's Saturday:
Equivocation – having your cake and eating it – is a noticeable narrative strategy in ‘Saturday’. Perowne owns a Mercedes (as does, or did, McEwan – I have a hazy memory of reading some years ago a profile of the novelist which referred to his Mercedes parked in the drive of his Oxford home). Perowne has a memory of seeing his parked car “a hundred yards away, parked at an angle on a rise of the track, picked out in soft light against a backdrop of birch, flowering heather and thunderous black sky” – then adds: “the realisation of an ad man’s vision”. But though the description is lightly mocked, it is not seriously challenged. Seeing his car like this, Perowne experiences “a gentle, swooning joy of possession” (p. 76).
Boyd Tonkin complains that books as a cultural form don’t get enough attention from TV (Independent, 4 February 2005), but he adds:
“On the credit side, an item about Ian McEwan’s ‘Saturday’ made the principal BBC evening news this Monday. This was not because it grabbed a gong or stirred a quarrel or triggered a fatwa, but simply because a world-ranking novelist had brought out a landmark work.”
But I can’t think of anything more characteristic of the news values of the BBC than that it should choose to privilege the publication of ‘Saturday’ as deserving of respectful attention as ‘news’. ‘Saturday’ is ideologically kin to those values. It’s a novel which adopts a reverent attitude to affluence. A Mercedes is a lovely car. Squash is a splendid game. It’s nice to have a big house in central London. A war on Iraq will get rid of a disgusting torture regime.
‘Saturday’ is a novel for liberals who didn’t go on the march (and I have yet to read a review of the novel or hear or watch a discussion of it that engages with the question of whether or not the critic participated in that march. My guess is that probably not a single one of them did.) It’s a bourgeois novel in the sense that it celebrates a bourgeois life style and worries about the threats to that way of life.
(More on McEwan here)
Liberal purism is a funny thing. I had a long discussion with a friend the other day who said she wished not to be buried but simply left in the woods somewhere, for animals to feast upon. I mentioned this might be traumatic for her parents re: the work of mourning, or for the five-year-old farmer's child who's dog brings him a femur. Similar discussions about turning the heat up ("just put on some pants!" "But you're not paying for the heat yourself"), etc. "Better to accept one's complicity, sometimes, and move on from there," I tell her, and I think she knows what I mean.
As for the review, I'm sure it's accurate, but probably not exactly what the owner's looking for...
Ironically (but in more ways than they mean it), McEwan seems to be having trouble entering the United States (via Arts Journal). Only marginally related, but see also this post.