Saturday, March 25, 2006

"Saturday" & "Mrs. Dalloway"

I'm as interested as the next guy in classic stories re-interpreted by contemporary writers. OK, maybe I'm a little more interested than the next guy.

Sometimes that's not at all what the writer is up to, however. For example:
It seems strange that Ian McEwan's homage to Virginia Woolf in his new novel, Saturday, has not been more widely commented upon. The distinctive structure of the book, which follows one day in the life of a neurosurgeon, Henry Perowne, is the exact structure of Mrs. Dalloway, which follows a day in the life of a housewife, Clarissa Dalloway.
--opening paragraph, "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? What critics didn't say about Ian McEwan's Saturday," by Katie Roiphe, Slate, March 30, 2005
"Saturday," as its name suggests, takes place during one extremely long day in the life of Henry Perowne. Like Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway before him, Henry is going shopping for a dinner party - only he's buying fish rather than flowers. His party is also the scene of a reunion, a reconciliation between his daughter, a just-published poet, and her grandfather, a literary lion and chronic alcoholic.
--"One wild day in a doctor's life," by Yvonne Zipp, Christian Science Monitor, March 22, 2005
The real ghost in this novel's machinery, however, isn't Tom Wolfe toting his uproarious brand of comic satire. It's Virginia Woolf, who pioneered the lambent, stream-of-consciousness narrative that Mr. McEwan uses so adroitly in these pages. In fact, ''Saturday'' reads like an up-to-the-moment, post-9/11 variation on Woolf's classic 1925 novel ''Mrs. Dalloway.''
--Michiko Kakutani, New York Times, March 18, 2005
Lenexa, Kan.: By looking at the acknowledgements, one can assume the most challenging part of writing "Saturday" was having to look through a neurosurgeon's eyes. One assumes you much enjoyed doing the research, and the learning. Did you find the fact that the novel had a "Mrs. Dalloway"-kind of novel-in-a-day frame made it any easier?


Ian McEwan: Yes, I enjoyed the research. The 24-hour novel has a long literary provenance. I was certainly not thinking at any point of Mrs. Dalloway though the readers have noticed a correspondence or a parallel. [emphasis added]

--on-line book chat, Washington Post, March 19, 2006
--Marshal Zeringue