I discuss the neuroscientific sensitivities of Saturday, Ian McEwan’s 2004 novel, in my forthcoming book, so I was happy to read this paragraph in Jonathan Lethem’s review of McEwan’s latest novel. Lethem is wondering why McEwan, despite his dabbles in modernist structure (Saturday is modeled on Mrs. Dalloway), doesn’t feel like a late modernist:
The answer may lie in the fact that modernism in fiction was partly spurred by the appearance of two great rivals to the novel’s authority, psychoanalysis and cinema — one a rival at plumbing depths, the other at delineating surfaces. McEwan, who comes along later, shrugs at such absolutist contests, and has for that matter already engulfed (most brilliantly in “Enduring Love”) the latest challenger to the novel’s throne: neurology. In fact, McEwan may in retrospect be seen as the quintessential example of the recent integration of scientific interest into fiction, precisely because in McEwan (as opposed to, say, Richard Powers) such matters cease to be in any way remarkable.
I couldn’t agree more. In fact, I hold up McEwan as a model of modern consilience, a writer able to seamlessly bridge the chasm separating scientific fact from modern fiction. My weekend plans consist of reading On Chesil Beach.