Wednesday, June 15, 2005

OT: An Adult Read

I am a huge fan of Ian McEwan's writing and especially love A Child in Time, Atonement, and Enduring Love. I had never noticed how central the parent-child relationship is to many of his works until now after having read Saturday.

Saturday received mixed reviews. I think this is only because McEwan wrote it and after Atonement has to live up to very high standards. I thought it was a great book and was really struck by the parent-child(ren) relationship at the heart of the novel. The hero--Henry Perowne--is a well-known, brilliant neurosurgeon searching for meaning in everyday life. (Much is made of the fact that this is a 9/11 novel. I am not so sure that 9/11 is as important as the press made it seem. Perowne just happens to live after 9/11.)

Mc Ewan's Perowne doesn't know much about and doesn't even particularly like literature. He also has fairly conservative, pedestrian tastes in music. Yet, he is the father of two grown children who are artists--Daisy, a poet, and Theo, a blues musician. You would think the two children would rebel against their father, but instead they include Henry in their artistic lives. Daisy harangues her father into not only reading, but into understanding what he reads. She sends postcards with instructions and reading lists, she chides him for his conservatism, she engages him in literary discussion. It's quite funny, actually, and Daisy comes off as an artist who believes in what she does, not as annoying. Theo looks for approval, wants his father to attend rehearsals and understand the new in his work.

I think that Daisy and Theo seek closeness with their father because he lives his everyday life as an artist. He notices every detail, every nuance of the day and interprets their meaning.

An idea central to all McEwan's work is that one small detail, one insignficant event can change the course of an entire life or lives. In Saturday Mc Ewan extends this idea, making it fundamental belief of his hero. Henry Perowne understands that each moment in his life is significant and takes the time to ponder the small details. Perowne is the opposite of a Romantic hero--he appreciates the art that is his life. He doesn't create a life more artistic than art.