Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Reading Rushdie

Okay, so the ride this morning fell through. I guess I shouldn't be surprised. I had two beers and sat around in a smoky bar the night before, plus my alarm seems to have malfunctioned. I must be getting old as I seem to remember when I could drink more yet feel less, hang out with smokers, then wake up the next morning feeling fine. Not hung-over and smelling like an ashtray. Anyway, welcome back Nick (bastard).

I'm ordering some WTB Mutano Raptors for the race. Hopefully they show up on time. If they don't it's okay, I've still got my Cheng Shins.

I played another game of Go with Pinky tonight. I lost (as usual), but I'm improving. He also had me read a short story by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I recommend it heartily, plus it's really short. Read it here.

I've been tearing through books pretty fast lately and the blog just hasn't had time to catch up. Here's one that I read last week. This isn't the best review I've written (maybe 8th grade level).

Book Review: East, West, by Salman Rushdie

East, West, unlike most of Rushdie's works, is a collection of short stories. Of the nine stories, three are East, three are West, and three are Eastwest.

The East stories are essentially morality tales. Simple folktales warning us not to get our hopes up. I really wish I had more to say about these, but the only one that seems to warrant any attention is the third story, The Prophet's Hair. This story alone treats us to Rushdie's usual spiraling supernatural storytelling, but even it can be reduced to, "you get what you deserve."

The West stories read like a bad copy of Milan Kundera (admittedly an influence on Rushdie's writing). The three stories certainly delve into more complex realms, but leave us short of meaning or real world grounding that we have come to expect. Yorick and At the Auction of the Ruby Slipper, are certainly complex and ethereal, but where is the depth or substance? Columbus and Isabella is more like a sketch by Italo Calvino than the down to earth Rushdie.

Of all the stories only the Eastwest ones really seem to give us the depth and complexity along with the moral message that Rushdie represents. The Harmony of the Spheres gives us a glimpse into the supernatural world that Rushdie uses to such devastating effect in his novels, while Chekov and Zulu, along with it's pop-culture references, brings us some of the moral ambiguity that lurks under the surface. Finally, The Courter is the only top-notch Salman Rushdie in the collection. This story of an Indian family's Ayah living in London, this story gets us up close and personal with the everyday living of human beings. From the language barrier and sexual frustration to Flintstones references this is the real Rushdie.

None of these stories even comes close to Rushdie's novels, such as Midnight's Children or Shalimar the Clown. He is no short story writer. His craft relies too much on foreshadowing and lifetimes of patience to be presented in such a terse manner. East, West is best thought of as showing us Rushdie's place in literature. He is not East and not West, but as he would put it in one word, Eastwest.


the recyclist said...

Read that one a long time ago and felt disappointed due to his reputation...it was my first Salman experience. I bought The Satanic Verses and it's been staring at me for years, but somehow other books just keep budging in line. I can't wait to finally settle down to read it.

Laura In Japan said...

Again...hi. I don't know how else to contact you. Email me, laura.vasser@gmail.com I'm moving to Hawaii soon.

Matt Maxwell said...

Rushdie's best is probably Midnight's Children, though I've been pretty impressed by all of his novels (with the possible exception of Fury). I've started Satanic Verses twice, but been distracted by life and had to give up. I don't think it's his best, but it's certainly his most controversial (43+ deaths directly related to the book).

Laura, I sent you an email. Sorry I haven't gotten back to you sooner.

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