Saturday, December 17, 2005

Literature: Slate's books of the year

The Sparky recs from the list:

Ian McEwan's Saturday
the first two Modern Library editions of Philip Roth's works (1 and 2)
Peter Green's new translation of The Poems of Catullus
Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go
Marilynn Robinson's Gilead

Several of the editors absolutely gush over Saturday, which surprises me. McEwan's weave of post 9/11 neurosurgical paranoia was so much less heavy than, say, Atonement. It was more readable, but somehow felt less important. But that's probably just because literary writing about history as it is happening is almost impossible to do. Unless you're Afghani, then you can write The Kite Runner and get away with it. Hosseni knew something about Afghanistan that I didn't, and he could teach me. But McEwan doesn't seem to know anything about being alive post 9/11 that the rest of us don't know. Luckily, he knows everything about his characters and their language; he even negotiates surgical vocabulary with amazing ease. In essence, the novel has limitations. But there's enough that's done brilliantly that you can ignore those limitations happily.


JHearne said...

I read Gilead

I thought it was okay. If I might ask, why do you 'rec' it?

Garrett said...

Very much on hearsay. I've read Saturday, much of the Roth collection, and am pretty familiar with Catullus and Green's approach. Ishiguro and Robinson I rec'ed purely on reputation :)