I'm reading another book I don't like. It's something I do; it annoys the Man, he can't understand why, when we've got so much high quality literature at our fingertips, I would deliberately choose to plough my way through something that makes me visibly angry. But a part of me likes the sensation; I'm an arguer, and a reader, and if I can combine the two, I see it as an effective use of time. So this time it's Saturday by Ian McEwan. The critically acclaimed account of a wanky neurosurgeon in the throes of some sort of middle-class crisis. The objection I have is simple enough: that the book makes me feel stifled, that Perowne, the protagonist, and his lawyer wife, his successful poet daughter, his groovy blues-playing rebel son, are suffocating in their perfection, their carefully measured angst. They slouch through their expensive London house like a parody of the perfectly imperfect family, just off-beat enough. It makes a fallacy of the ordinary struggles of everyday life. These people, they don't struggle. They glide. Everything has propelled them toward this life, towards the ownership of modestly luxurious things, towards the London life, the clean, comfortable London life. Not a manor house, or a vintage car, or even an esoteric loft apartment, but the old house that overlooks a tree-lined square. It's all so ordinary, so alarmingly propagandistic--this is what happy people look like, this is what ordinary, talented, beautiful people do. They flirt with unhappiness, but it's never a personal unhappiness. They gaze out windows and consider the state of the world with the same glib resignation that most of us reserve for a consideration of our outdated hairstyles or strained bank balances. It's as if all the life has been sucked from them, replaced by a distinctly urbane imitation of the stuff.
So why read it? Because after all that, I'm impressed with the language. The precision of it. A quasi-imitation of Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway suits McEwan's ability to describe a thing--a feeling, usually--specifically. Each moment of Perowne's morning is outlined, amplified, enhanced by the way it is written. A dull man's dull activities, explained beautifully. That's worth something.
(Plus, I like a good rant, and reading something that agitates me allows me to do it on my blog. Win!)