Monday, June 26, 2006


Yesterday I finished Ian McEwan’s Saturday, which I really enjoyed. His prose is beautiful and polished. In reading the criticism (afterwards), I understand how some take issue with his characters, viewpoint and writing style, but I ended firmly back in his camp.

I found especially interesting the plane crash the main character witnesses at the beginning that threads through the book. He wonders why it’s not immediately on the news, why reports are terse. Then there’s who’s on board. For me it was an accurate inner drama of thought-swings: dreading the worst has happened, feeling a bit buoyed that it’s not so bad, doubting news, then how you almost want your fears confirmed. That would justify your having them. A proof of guilt would justify your opinion and preserve your righteousness. A lot of the book is about that: a well-off surgeon with a day to examine himself. It’s a world itself looking at itself ready to unravel after 9-11. There are a number of allusions to The Heart of Darkness, not the least of which is the bruise left on the surgeon’s chest after a run-in with some thugs.

There were a few places were Saturday is overwritten. (One sentence especially sticks out – read the book and ask me later.) I also think the lingering over soup ingredients and furniture reflects the lifestyle and camp as much in a negative way as a laudatory. And, yes, it is in one spot the plot is especially contrived, but it can’t be any more weird/coincidental than real life. I’m letting him off the hook this time. I’ve read a number of McEwan’s books and swore him off after Amsterdam, which I found contrived enough to be ridiculous. But my mother left Saturday at my house after she visited so I figured why not. Chances are you’ll hate it.

I was surprised to find out this morning when talking to a colleague that Amsterdam(1998) won the Booker prize. Oh geez that must have been a bad year. Of the Booker prize books I’ve read, I also disliked Possession (1990). But I loved Disgrace (1999) and Oscar and Lucinda (1988). If you read Michael Ondaatje, read The Collected Works of Billy the Kid before The English Patient (1992). And my colleague recommends Banville.

Here are the Bookers of the past 30 years. I bolded the ones I've read.

2005 - John Banville, The Sea
2004 - Alan Hollinghurst, The Line of Beauty
2003 - DBC Pierre, Vernon God Little
2002 - Yann Martel, Life of Pi
2001 - Peter Carey, True History of the Kelly Gang
2000 - Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin
1999 - J M Coetzee, Disgrace
1998 - Ian McEwan, Amsterdam

1997 - Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things
1996 - Graham Swift, Last Orders
1995 - Pat Barker, The Ghost Road
1994 - James Kelman, How Late It Was, How Late
1993 - Roddy Doyle, Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha
1992 - Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient

1992 - Barry Unsworth, Sacred Hunger
1991 - Ben Okri, The Famished Road
1990 - A S Byatt, Possession
1989 - Kazuo Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day
1988 - Peter Carey, Oscar and Lucinda

1987 - Penelope Lively, Moon Tiger
1986 - Kingsley Amis, The Old Devils
1985 - Keri Hulme, The Bone People
1984 - Anita Brookner, Hotel du Lac
1983 - J M Coetzee, Life & Times of Michael K
1982 - Thomas Keneally, Schindler's Ark
1981 - Salman Rushdie, Midnight's Children
1980 - William Golding, Rites of Passage
1979 - Penelope Fitzgerald, Offshore
1978 - Iris Murdoch, The Sea, the Sea1977 - Paul Scott, Staying On
1976 - David Storey, Saville
1975 - Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Heat and Dust


michi said...

i haven't read this book, but i thought atonement was brilliant. got to me, somehow. and very beautifully written.

out of those booker prize winning books, these are the ones i have read:

DBC Pierre, Vernon God Little
Yann Martel, Life of Pi
Peter Carey, True History of the Kelly Gang
Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things
Roddy Doyle, Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha
Iris Murdoch, The Sea, the Sea

my favourite out of those is roy's god of small things. the language is amazing.

i bought disgrace, it's the next book i'll read.


SarahJane said...

Hi Michi -
I was hoping you'd tell me which ones you'd read. I was interested in "Atonement," but after "Amsterdam" I felt a bit sour on McEwan.
Did you like "Vernon God Little?" It seems like just a few months ago the Booker prize went to that book and it's actually three years. sheesh. I'd like to read "God of Small Things" too. All I want to know is what is going to happen to all my poor books when I die in a foreign country?

michi said...

venon god little was very strange. it was an interesting and very different read, but i felt that a little something was missing to make it really wonderful. but i have a friend who loved the book, and he would disagree with me ...

what will happen to your books in germany is this: someone will come in, label them all neatly, make a list, and then probably distribute them to charity, quite possibly through some extremely complicated but sensible alphabetical system.
unless you become really famous, in which case they will be neatly labelled, put on a list, and distributed to museums, quite possibly by some extremely complicated etc

iljil, says the word verification. i rather hope it's healthysarah!


guile said...

the blind assassin.. i love that book :)..

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