February 9, 2012 by Me and My Monkeys
McEwan measures time in moments, and plot appears to evolve from a multitude of sub-consequential introspective decisions: “A second can be a long time in introspection”. Is action a matter of chance or “biological determinism”?
Saturday is about fragility and relativity. It is the squash game that protagonist Henry Perowne simply must win, but doesn’t.
It is also about success and failure. “Status anxiety” versus “false sense[s] of superiority”. Confronted with a street sweeper, McEwan suggests that “Henry feels himself bound to the other man, as though on a seesaw with him, pinned to an axis that could tip them into each other’s life”. McEwan has charted this territory before, and often. As has Martin Amis. As has Julian Barnes. It’s second generation Angry Young Men stuff.
Through Perowne, McEwan exhibits his now typical preoccupation with the finely balanced tightrope of thought, perception and emotion. Consider the “accidental nature of opinions” and the way that Perowne’s state of mind can change with the slightest recalibration of neuro-chemicals: “a modest rise in his adrenaline level is making him unusually associative”.
What has the potential to annoy some readers is the apparent contradiction between such randomness and a plot and structure that is arguably pre-determined and contrived.
Not me. I thought Saturday was profound, assured and eloquent.
Out of 10? 8