Saturday — Overhyped or Misunderstood?

As my colleague Scott Esposito (who, for the past day or so, has seen his thoughts after December 11 undisplayed, along with several other noble Typepad bloggers, thanks to the supreme incompetence of Six Apart[1]) has pointed out, Slate’s top 10 list is a rather pedestrian list, with the only notable contributions from deputy editor David Plotz and editorial assistant Blake Wilson. Could it be that the young ‘uns over at Slate are the only ones over there reading outside of the box (Phillip Roth, Ian McEwan, et al.)? The continued praise for Saturday[2] continues to perplex me. And I’m a hard-core McEwan fan. Is it a generational thing? Or am I just missing something beyond an overwritten Mrs. Dalloway homage with a few good confrontation scenes? I’m always willing to shift my arguments. But for the love of literature, If there are any Saturday fans in the crowd, please help a clueless white boy out.

[1] An issue with the primary disk system? Running diagonistics on the device? That sounds to me like an incompetent tech support team without a backup system, not unlike Microsoft releasing a security patch to Internet Explorer after the hole has existed for years. The moral of the story: If you value the half-life of your posts, back up your shit up, yo.

[2] If you’re interested, my review is here.

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  1. I think it definitely is a generational thing. I’ve noticed the younger the lit blogger, the more interest he or she has with books outside the mainstream. That’s to be expected. When I was in my 20s, I, too, appreciated very political movies and books. I couldn’t get enough of Marge Piercy, who wrote about the underground, lesbian love, the Vietnam war and other issues that still reverberated in the 1970s. I loved films by Costas Gravas and othothers.

    One reason I loved Saturday and put it on my Top 10 list is precisely because the protagonist is so comfortably ensconsed in his happy materialist life. He was so safe and then everything is thrown into doubt. It starts with that eerie scene of a burning plane and then the car accident and then the home invasion. I guess I could relate to how a series of small events can turn a person’s life upside down. Maybe having children opens up that vulnerability; maybe that’s why Saturday didn’t appeal to you or Scott. The stakes didn’t seem high or particularly steep.

  2. For my part, I don’t buy the generational line, except insofar as older readers of McEwan might be more likely to be comfortable (I don’t know how fair an assumption that woujld be in any event), and thus perhaps be more likely to give a pass to what was little more than an apology for liberal squeamishness towards the antiwar position. Other than, as you put it, “a few good confrontation scenes”, I found the book tiresome and more than a little silly.

    It’s unfortunate; prior to this book I was a big McEwan admirer. Somehow, the book and its reception, combined with his various articles over the last couple of years, both literary and political, have turned the tide in my mind against his writing. I still find him a talented writer, but I don’t particularly look forward to his work anymore.

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