Friday, May 13, 2005

Some Recent Reading

My parents are keen readers, and have made sure to pass this on to me. When they visit us, they're officially on vacation and spend even more time reading. Some of the time I set aside to spend with them while they're here is often spent reading, and so I seem to get through books much more quickly when they're around.

In the last week I've read two books. One is Sam Harris's The End of Faith, and the other is Ian McEwan's Saturday.

Harris's book was quite enjoyable, in the sense that it feels great to have reasonable ideas, that you hold dear, repeated over and over to you. Unfortunately, this makes it all the more jarring when one reaches the parts where he overreaches somewhat. I don't want to review the book here, but Michael Bérubé has some interesting things to say about loving The End of Faith and taking issue with it, I essentially agree with Michael's broad statements (but don't have the philosophical specifics he has, of course).

I have no such ambivalence about Saturday. For my tastes, McEwan is a master. One could rave about a number of aspects of his craft, but I just love the way he creates the sense of emotion. When McEwan's characters feel guilt, shame, love, anger, obligation, or any other of the feelings that help define what it is to be human, it's not just that one sees what he means, but rather that one feels these emotions personally, immediately and viscerally. I lose count of the number of times the hairs on my neck rise, my stomach tightens, or I find myself dry-mouthed and swallowing, just by reading his prose.

In my opinion, Saturday is as good as anything he's written and, in particular, for my tastes, better even than his Booker prize winning Amsterdam. (And I haven't even mentioned his multiple passages that praise the beauty of the scientific view of the world)
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