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Saturday by Ian McEwan (review by Karl)   Printer-friendly page   Send this story to someone
Friday, March 31, 2006 - 01:00 AM
Posted by: kbade

Books

NOTE: If you're here for the usual stuff, fear not -- it's right below this entry, though music fans should read this review. OTOH, if you came her directly for the review, check the home page and poke around a bit!

Ian McEwan's Saturday was the March selection for Amber Taylor's Blog Book Club. Before review day, we alreay know that Amber liked it a lot, and it's not tough to understand why. The book's protagonist, neurosurgeon Henry Perowne, has a number of qualities she (and I) would like. He's intelligent and rational. He's also professional without being coldly clinical; outside work, he has both love and libido for his wife, with no thought of straying. He's trying to cultivate a love of literature and poetry -- the latter playing a recurring role, as both his father-in-law and his daughter are poets. In fact, poetry plays a crucial role in this chronicle of February 15, 2003, as experienced by Henry. Moreover, the contrast between craft and the creation of artistic beauty is a sub-theme of the book.

Ironically, I suspect that Henry might not like Saturday. After his daughter Daisy gets him to read Anna Karenina and Madame Bovary, he does not believe they amounted to much: "The details were apt and convincing enough, but surely not so very difficult to marshal if you were halfway observant and had the patience to write them all down. These books were the products of steady, workmanlike accumulation." That could be a desciption of this book as well, as McEwen taps directly into the inner monolgue of a man who spends his day inside the heads of other people in a more literal sense. At times, the flow of detail threatens to overwhelm; McEwan spent two years observing a brain surgeon and lets you know he did his homework. But even these passages never become o­nerous because they fit so well with the way we know Perowne's own mind works. In the less technical passages (the vast majority of the book), the reader can be carried with the ebb and flow of Perowne's day, much like the twists and turns of his quash match with a colleague. I rarely felt that McEwan was having to stretch to spend an entire novel o­n o­ne day.

The first thing I learned about Perowne from the book jacket was that he is a contented man, an observation borne out in the book. Saturday would ordinarily be Perowne's most contented day, but the main theme of Saturday is the ways in which events conspire against that contentment, starting with an omen in the early morning sky and drawing ever closer to Perowne as the day unfolds. The events can be as global as post-9/11 anxieties and divisions over the looming invasion of Iraq (the day in question is o­ne of the massive anti-war protests in London, where the tale is set) -- about which Perowne is profoundly ambivalent. Indeed, Perowne finds himself the contrarian when others speak of it, leaning against when listening to his prowar colleague Jay, and for it when confronted by his daughter.

Some may be tempted to see the events of Perowne's day as a metaphor for the larger post-9/11 issues. Is the way Perowne treats his antagonist meant to suggest the way the West has treated the Islamic world? Is McEwan suggesting the latter has defects like those of Perowne's antagonist? Fortunately, McEwan doesn't telegraph any such intent and lets the story exist o­n a more human level.

As interesting as those meditations may be, I, as a music enthusiast, found myself lingering o­n the subtheme of artistic creation. Perowne's son, Theo, is a blues musician who was partially mentored by Jack Bruce of Cream. Thus, in the midst of Perowne's rationalism, the reader is periodically surprised by references to John Lee Hooker or the Graham Bond Organisation. And my favorite passage in the book may be when Perowne's rationalism is suspended as Theo's band rehearses a new song:

"He lets it engulf him. There are those rare moments when musicians together touch something sweeter than theyve ever found before in rehearsals or performance, beyond the merely collaborative or technically proficient, when their expression becomes as easy and graceful as friendship or love. This is when they give us a glimpse of what we might be, of our best selves, and of an impossible world in which you give everything you have to others, but lose nothing of yourself. Out in the real world there exist detailed plans, visionary projects for peaceable realms, all conflicts resolved, happiness for everyone, for ever -- mirages for which people are prepared to die or kill. Christ's kingdom o­n earth, the worker's paradise, the ideal Islamic state. But o­nly in music, and o­nly o­n rare occasions, does the curtain actually lift o­n this dream of community, and it's tantalizingly conjured, before fading away with the last notes."

With prose like that, the fact that the song being played is remarkably un-bluesy to advance another theme of the story is a nitpick.

There should be be more reviews and discussion at Prettier Than Napoleon later on Friday. Next month's selection is Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys, should you like to follow along.

5149 Reads

The Replacements, Drive-By Truckers, Guillemots and Dog Thongs   Printer-friendly page   Send this story to someone
Thursday, March 30, 2006 - 08:00 AM
Posted by: kbade

Karl

5865 Reads

The Magic Numbers, Tommy Keene, Band of Horses, Buck the Pug   Printer-friendly page   Send this story to someone
Wednesday, March 29, 2006 - 08:00 AM
Posted by: kbade

Karl

KURT COBAIN: Smells Like Teen Action Figure. Oh, listen... you can hear him spinning now...

THE BEATLES: Politically correct anti-smoking police have chopped off two of Ringo's fingers in their proto-Stalinist zeal to Photoshop the coffin nails from the photos used for the forthcoming Capitol Albums Vol. 2 compilation.

THE MAGIC NUMBERS may be known for their sunny, country-tinged, harmonic pop, but singer Romeo Stodart claims Neil Young's On the Beach and Nick Drake's Pink Moon as influences also. You can check out their sampler to hear why Brian Wilson is a big fan.

WELCOME to my ol' college roomie Dale, who found the site just a few days ago, missing some classic Hogzilla stories...

BOB DYLAN & JOHHNY CASH: If you missed their lost album last time someone was killing music, An Aquarium Drunkard tempts you again.

TOMMY KEENE is putting out his first studio album in four years and solo touring after he's done backing Robert Pollard o­n tour. He also talks to PopMatters about Pollard, Paul Westerberg and songwriting generally.

THE SILVER JEWS: Reclusive songwriter David Berman may have decided to do his first tour because "I'd done all the things I wanted to do, so I started doing the things I didn't want to do." But in Ann Arbor, Berman seems to have warmed to the road, saying the shows "changed my mind about everything, because in all of my equations, I didn't count o­n o­ne thing and that was all of you people."

MORRISSEY is boycotting Canada because of the whole clubbing baby seals thing. And manages to work in an over-the-top Nazi analogy while he's at it. Canadians respond.

SEEN YOUR VIDEO: I found myself in the mood for "Here Comes Your Man" from the Pixies, so here it is.

MARGOT & THE NUCLEAR SO AND SO'S get some local love from the Indianapolis Star, which reports -- among other things -- that the band is partly named for Gwyneth Paltrow's character in the quirky film The Royal Tenenbaums. The band's album is streaming in its entirety this week from AOL Music.

THE FLAMING LIPS frontman talks to the San Francisco Chronicle about taking up the mantle of the MC5 and how difficult it is to do his laundry.

DUSTY SPRINGFIELD was so racked with self-doubt that she recorded the vocals for Dusty In Memphis in NYC, according to Atlantic Records' legendary Jerry Wexler.

BAND OF HORSES: The band's debut album, Everything All The Time is getting generally favorable reviews and is streaming in Windows format from MSN (Thanks, Brooklyn Vegan)

BILLY BRAGG is offering an exclusive download through the London Guardian titled, "The Lonesome Death of Rachel Corrie." It should be noted that the circumstances of Corrie's death are hotly disputed at best, with evidence suggesting that the group to which she belonged is not as big o­n non-violence as it claim to be and works with Hamas, Islamic Jihad and similar groups. A senior member of Islamic Jihad who planned several suicide attacks was arrested in the group's office. An article in Mother Jones magazine described Corrie as "deluded" and an "idiot," as well as noting that her group misled the media about the circumstances of her death. As Billy wrote years ago, "There are two sides to every story."

RHETT MILLER: The Old 97s frontman gives "Five Rules of Good Composition" to Paste magazine. You can hear his latest, The Believer, in its entirety, via MySpace.

TOM-KAT UPDATE: Holmes, who celebrated her baby shower at the Hollywood Scientology Center o­n Saturday, will be helped through labor with Scientology cue cards posted around the couple's Beverly Hills mansion. Meanwhile Cruise was reportedly urging his ex, Nicole Kidman, to dump Keith Urban.

WILMER VALDERRAMA of That 70's Show dished dirt o­n his near-countless Hollywood liasons o­n the Howard Stern show. He claims that that he took Mandy Moore's virginity and that Ashlee Simpson is a screamer (What? No lip-syncing?). But he never had the Alba. Tons more dirt at the link.

GIRLS GONE WILD mogul Joe Francis wants to buy Playboy.

THE TEN COMMANDMENTS has been remade as a two-part, four-hour miniseries for ABC. The special effects will probably be good, but how good could it possibly be without Edward G. Robinson?

THE VILLAGE PEOPLE: Victor Willis, who dressed as the policeman in the band, has been arrested again after disappearing while drug and gun charges against him were pending.

SEAN PENN tells The New Yorker he has a plastic doll of columnist Ann Coulter that he likes to abuse when angry: "We violate her. There are cigarette burns in some funny places." Call him Mr. Peaceful.

SHARON STONE is adamant teenagers should be prepared to engage in oral sex: "Young people talk to me about what to do if they're being pressed for sex? I tell them oral sex is a hundred times safer than vaginal or anal sex. If you're in a situation where you cannot get out of sex, offer a blow job. I'm not embarrassed to tell them." Stone also says Sen. Hillary Clinton should wait to run for US President because she's too sexy. Insert Lewinsky joke here. Stone further claims she has no interest in doing Basic Instinct 3, which is a good thing, based o­n the few advance reviews for Basic Instinct 2.

KATE MOSS is warning actress Lindsay Lohan about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse. Was this before or after the two went pole-dancing across NYC? And was it before or after the supposedly sober supermodel's 21-hour bender?

OCEAN'S 13 looks ready to roll. It may be more entertaining than Brad Pitt talking about buildings and food. Maybe.

GARFLECK: Someone o­n AOL has a picture of Jennifer Garner and Violet.

ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT is probably dead. Though a tentative deal was struck to move the show from Fox to Showtime, creator Mitch Hurwitz says he will not be continuing with the series. "Of course, if there was enough money in it, I would have happily abandoned the fans' need for quality. But as it turns out, there wasn't," he said.

JESSICA SIMPSON: Future ex Nick Lachey now taunts her with rumors that he's seeing the similarly buxom blonde (and devout Christian) Kristin Chenoweth.

SEEN YOUR VIDEO II: The Sound of Young America posts an interview and Q & A session lost for 30 years that four Pythons did at public TV station KERA in Dallas, which was the first to air the Flying Circus in the US.

IRAQ: Bill Roggio rounds up independent ops by the Iraqi Army and Al Qaeda attacks -- o­ne successful and o­ne failed. Kimberly Johnson of USA Today blogs an Iraqi-led operation in Hawijah. Bill Roggio rounds up divisions within the Shiite political bloc. The AP reports o­n slow recruiting in Ramadi (without mentioning there was already successful police recruiting there). There was more successful Iraqi Army recruitment in Qaim, a former insurgent hotbed. At Healing Iraq, Zayed writes about Mahdi army militiamen lynching a local Imam in Baghdad, with frustration that shows how fragile the situation there remains.

OUR FRIENDS, THE SAUDIS are working secretly o­n a nuclear program, with help from our friends in Pakistan. Meanwhile, the head of the Arab League called o­n Arab states Tuesday to work toward "entering the nuclear club" by developing atomic energy -- because they cannot afford to be dependent o­n Mideast oil, y'know.

BUCK THE PUG was as good as dead, with three broken legs. He was saved by the Internet.

DOG OWNERS can get licensed in Vienna.

LEWIS THE CAT was slapped with a restraining order after attacking the Avon lady in Fairfield, CT.

A FOUR-FOOT-LONG GATOR turned up in a garage in Ft. Myers, FL. An 82-year-old homeowner says he tried to shoo it with a broom -- then sprayed it with a garden hose -- but the gator didn't leave until three other people prodded it to move o­n to a lake.

A FEMALE SHRIMP-LIKE CREATURE may get some after 200 million years. Now that's a slump.

3303 Reads

New Releases, Scott McCaughey, Art Brut and the World Smallest Cat   Printer-friendly page   Send this story to someone
Tuesday, March 28, 2006 - 08:00 AM
Posted by: kbade

Karl

6326 Reads

Be Your Own Pet, Billy Bragg, Ronnie Spector and a ton 'o' bird poop   Printer-friendly page   Send this story to someone
Monday, March 27, 2006 - 08:00 AM
Posted by: kbade

Karl

4422 Reads

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