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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

To read about movies and TV shows I'm watching, visit my other blog: Elliot's Watching

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Rushdie's inventiveness - and not

Salman Rushdie's short fiction - it's not a story, it's obviously the first pages of his new novel - The Dunizyat (sp?), shows his usual exuberance, inventiveness, and luxurious prose - so fresh and breathtaking at one time but now seeming a little tiresome, a young man's game played by an old hand. What he's trying to do I think is tell the life history of his (imagined) family, tracing it back to the 12th century, as this first section describes a family forebear, a failed and frustrated philosopher, who marries a mystical creature who appears to him in woman's form and givens birth to numerous spawn - whether you go for this kind of story or novel depends entirely on how much you can buy into a highly imaginative world view. It's the kind of fiction that works well read aloud - I'm sure Rushdie would play it up and emphasize the humor - and not as well in cold type. A few things of particular interest: all readers will recognize in Rushdie's imagined forefather a version of himself, forced by a despotic and fanatic religious ruler to suppress his work and his thoughts and write in exile or obscurity. I think readers will also see a bit of payback here to Rushdie's several glam wives for whom the relationship did not work as hoped: his image of women as mystical spawning machines and visitors from another layer of reality is troublesome to say the least. Before there are too many paeans to his great originality, some readers will also recognize that the device of a Dunizyat (she is Scheherazad's kid sister, sleeping at the foot of the bed and hearing the 1001 tales) is a direct ripoff from John Barth, who wrote extensively on this theme back in the 70s (in Chimera, I think) - Barth and Rushdie were in the same lit circles, so Barth maybe holds no grudge about this purloined theme, but duly noted that Barth trod the ground first.

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