There’s a movie of Midnight’s Children and that’s happening right now and I never knew?

DID YOU KNOW ABOUT THIS AND DIDN’T TELL ME! I swear to God, bloggy friends. Did you know about this and didn’t tell me? What did I do to you to make you neglect me this way? Was it that time I vanished for the whole summer? Cause…well, no, that’s very fair if so.

Salman Rushdie is not my favorite author (very few of his lady characters are interesting), although I like him a lot, and Midnight’s Children is not my favorite of his books, although I liked it a lot, but I am pretty excited about this movie. Salman Rushdie helped work on the script, and it’s an all-Indian cast, and it screened at the Toronto Film Festival and I have heard good things. Hooray! I’m excited!

Also, Iran tried to stop the film from getting made. Because of course.

Also, I’m posting this during the span of A More Diverse Universe and that is apt because Salman Rushdie writes fantasy novels (magic realism just has to accept itself for what it is), and he is an author of color. I did this on purpose and not at all because I just noticed this movie existed today.

Also, I went to the dentist recently and I don’t have any cavities. That’s unrelated to Salman Rushdie. I just wanted you to know.

Review: Shalimar the Clown, Salman Rushdie

My lovely Legal Sister bought me Shalimar the Clown at a book sale last year and gave it to me when she GRADUATED SISTER GRADUATED WOOOO YAY FOR SISTERS. Legal Sister reports that the family has a policy whereby we all give each other books we got at book sales and do not have to pay each other back. I am not sure this is a real policy, but I’m delighted to acknowledge it as if it were. Shalimar the Clown is one of the two fiction books by Salman Rushdie I had yet to read (not counting Grimus and Shame, which I started and loathed and never finished; and not counting Luka and the Fire of Life, which I’m not sure about because I didn’t love Haroun and the Sea of Stories), the other being The Moor’s Last Sigh, so I was glad to have the chance to read it. I suspected I would like it okay but not as much as The Moor’s Last Sigh. But we’ll see.

Teresa and I were talking last week about Salman Rushdie and how his gifts as a writer do not necessarily run to constructing coherent plotlines. He is a genius with wordplay, and he makes magical realism, a genre I customarily detest, startlingly unloathsome. He has some set pieces that are marvelously executed, nicely set up, elegantly internally paralleled, and tidily finished. But if you are after a coherent narrative, Salman Rushdie is perhaps not your guy. Teresa said that this was the reason she liked Shalimar the Clown best of Rushdie’s books, because it is a well-ordered, narrative with a beginning, a middle, and an end. Digressive it certainly is, or it wouldn’t be Rushdie, but it’s all building up to something, and once it builds up to the thing, there’s a climax, a denouement, and then the book ends. I can absolutely see Teresa’s point on this.

However, Shalimar the Clown didn’t do it for me. The plot is basically that there is this American diplomat with an illegitimate daughter called India, and he gets brutally murdered by his driver, a Kashmiri fellow called Shalimar the Clown. Subsequently the narrative flashes back to Shalimar’s childhood in Kashmir and the love of his life, a girl named Boonyi, and all the terrible things that happened to Boonyi and Shalimar and Kashmir, and how it’s all led up to this brutal murder by Shalimar of the American diplomat. In Rushdie-relative rather than absolute terms, this plot is tight as a drum.

But, eh, I don’t know. It all felt heavy-handed.

(I just paused from writing this post because my friend sent me a link to the film trailer for Breaking Dawn. Now I feel silly calling anything else in the entire world heavy-handed. But on I bloodily stagger.)

As I was saying, it all felt heavy-handed. There were parts of the book that talked about the bloodshed in Kashmir, and when you’re talking about something as horrible as what Rushdie’s talking about,  you really don’t need to sell it much because the impact on the readers happens just from the events. The writing doesn’t need to fall all over itself reminding you how terrible and senseless it is. I was also bothered (I am increasingly bothered by this in Salman Rushdie’s books!) by the genders of the characters. As is often the case with Rushdie, the momentum in the book (broadly speaking) tends to belong to the male characters, while the women are more reactive than active.

(Actually, that last complaint could be about the Twilight series too. HA HA, Salman Rushdie would probably not appreciate this comparison. Sorry, Salman Rushdie. You are far cleverer than Stephenie Meyer.)

So that’s it for Shalimar the Clown. I’m going to go watch the trailer for Harry Potter again now. Have I mentioned I miss Harry Potter?

Who else read it:

Literarily Speaking
Lotus Reads
Books, Time, and Silence
Largehearted Boy

Tell me if I missed yours!

The Enchantress of Florence, Salman Rushdie

The Enchantress of Florence is all about a Florentine stranger who comes to the court of Mughal emperor Akbar the Great (heehee, get it?) with a story to tell.  He claims that he is Akbar’s uncle (ish), the son of a great-aunt Akbar never knew existed.  It’s a bold claim, but the stranger is a bold man; and in the days that follow, he entrances Akbar with the story of three Italian friends (including Machiavelli because, you know, it’s Salman Rushdie, and why not?), and the parts they played in the tale of the stranger’s purported mother, the “hidden princess” Qara Koz.

There are so many reasons that I loved this book.  One is that I love Salman Rushdie.  I read Midnight’s Children out of a sense of obligation, and I was surprised at how fun and playful it was, even when it was dark.  Salman Rushdie and his love affair with words make me smile, because although I am not brilliant with them like he is, I too have great love for The Words.  Like this, talking about the Florentine stranger:

Indeed, he turned out to be quite the conjurer.  He transformed gold coins into smoke and yellow smoke back into gold.  A jug of resh water flipped upside down released a flood of silken scarves.  He multiplied fishes and loaves with a couple of passes of his elegant hand, which was blasphemous, of course, but the hungry sailors easily forgave him.  Crossing themselves hastily, to insure themselves against the possible wrath of Christ Jesus regarding the the usurpation of his position by this latter-day miracle worker, they gobbled up their unexpectedly lavish, if theologically unsound, lunch.

Then also, I love that what the book is really about is the power of stories.  The people in Florence and Sikri can be taken over by words, not just the mob but the rulers, taken over by the stories they tell each other about the main characters in the book.  She’s a patron saint, she’s a witch; he’s a great emperor, he’s incestuous – the stories make all the difference.  I like that.  I expect that if you were Salman Rushdie, and you had spent loads of years in hiding because of a story you had written, that would be a fairly inescapable theme for your books.  Actually, this stories thing, what story you believe and why, also gives rise to the only complaint I had with the book.  Spoilers ahead.

Akbar’s problem throughout the story is that the stranger’s timing is all wrong.  He couldn’t be Akbar’s uncle and be the age that he is, and at the end of the tale the stranger tells him that his mother, the beautiful Qara Koz, found a way to stop time in herself, so that she didn’t age the way others did.  Akbar’s trust in the stranger is broken.  He tells him no, that isn’t what happened, that’s impossible, he can’t believe it.  He tells him that Qara Koz had a daughter, and died, and the daughter then slept with her own father to produce the stranger, and that’s what happened, and he makes him leave the kingdom, for lying and being the product of incest.  And the stranger keeps saying, no, she stopped time; and I liked it all vague.  I wanted it to stay vague.  But then at the end Qara Koz shows up, brought into being by the telling of the story and the belief in the story, and tells the emperor what really happened.  Boo.  I liked it vague.  The book’s about the power of believing in the story you believe in!  It would have been more better if we had gotten to decide ourselves, like Life of Pi.

However, I am not the boss of Salman Rushdie, and apart from that, which all happened in the last ten pages or so, The Enchantress of Florence was lovely and fun and gorgeously written, my favorite of his since The Ground Beneath Her Feet.

(Oh, yes, and also, can I just say, and this has bugged me for a while even though I do like Salman Rushdie a lot – what is with the women in his books?  Salman Rushdie’s women are always there sort of for men in a way that the men aren’t for women, and I’m tired of it.  Write a more interesting woman once in a while!  We are very interesting!)

Other thoughts: S. Krishna’s Books, Asylum, Adventures in Reading, Shelf Love, Eve’s Alexandria, Books for Breakfast, Both Eyes Book Blog

Booking Through Thursday

I like this one:

This can be a quick one. Don’t take too long to think about it. Fifteen books you’ve read that will always stick with you. First fifteen you can recall in no more than 15 minutes.

So here are my fifteen books that will always stick with me, more or less in the order in which they entered my life:

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis
Jane Eyre
, Charlotte Bronte
Emily Climbs, L.M .Montgomery
Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card
, William Shakespeare
The Chosen
, Chaim Potok
The Color Purple
, Alice Walker
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
, J.K. Rowling
, Eloise Jarvis McGraw
American Gods, Neil Gaiman
The Invention of Love, Tom Stoppard
I Capture the Castle
, Dodie Smith
, Julian of Norwich
The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver
The Ground Beneath Her Feet, Salman Rushdie

These are all books that left me breathless.  Is that what we were after?

The Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie

I heard about this from um. You know. Everywhere.

Before I went to England, I went to the bookstore to pick out three books for myself. They were leaving-home presents to myself, and I was going to read one of them before leaving America, and one of them on the plane to England, and one of them right before I left England. So I got a stack of several books, and I was going to decide which I wanted to buy. I sat down on the chair and read the beginnings of all of them, and The Satanic Verses was one of the ones I discarded.

You know what I bought instead? A Hundred Years of Solitude. It starts out really well and I hated it so, so much when I read the whole thing. I disliked it so much that after reading it on trains to and from Cambridge in the week before I left England, I took it to a thrift store in England and I left it there. I didn’t even care enough to bring it home. That’s true.

Anyway, now I really wish I’d brought The Satanic Verses instead. I’ve been so convinced that I was going to hate it that I’ve been refusing to read it, but I finally decided to straighten up and fly right. So voila, I finished reading it last night.

Totally, totally liked it. Not as much as The Ground Beneath Her Feet – i.e., I might reread it but I’ll probably never buy it – but I liked it a lot. It’s about these two guys who fall out of an airplane and they somehow miraculously survive because one of them flaps his arms and they sing and sing, and when they get back to regular life, one of them starts to turn into an angel and the other one into a devil.

Quite interesting. Many, many things happened. Very many exciting plot things. Gibreel’s girlfriend was called Alleluia, and Allie for short, which charmed me. And I felt so happy at the end when Saladin got his proper name back and made up with his father and everyone was friends. I felt so, so happy. I felt just like I felt towards the end of Breakfast on Pluto. And oh, I liked it the nasty revenge that Saladin got on Gibreel, even though it was very wicked and poor Allie didn’t deserve it.

And not to be a jerk, and I don’t in any way think that Salman Rushdie should’ve had a fatwa out on him because that is totally ridiculous, but I can kinda see Ayatollah Khomeini’s point, dude. (But not really.) Because it’s not just about the verses, although that would be upsetting if it were true (apparently it’s apocryphal, you will rejoice to learn), it’s about how that book is for serious not very nice about Muhammed. If I were Muslim and I loved the Muhammed more than my luggage because he’s the Prophet of Allah, this book would sort of hurt my feelings. Actually, even with me not being one tiny bit Muslim, this book made me a little sad how it portrayed Muhammed.

However, Salman Rushdie can write what he damn well wants, and it is just the silliest thing ever that he spent years and years in hiding with security people just because he wrote a book that wasn’t very nice about the Prophet.

The end.

Keturah and Lord Death, Martine Leavitt

“Tell me what it is like to die,” I answered.

He dismounted from his horse, looking at me strangely the whole while.  “You experience something similar every day,” he said softly.  “It is as familiar to you as bread and butter.”

“Yes,” I said.  “It is like every night when I fall asleep.”

“No.  It is like every morning when you wake up.”

Recommended by: Brooklyn Arden

Oh how I liked this book.  It’s about a girl called Keturah who goes into the forest after a white hart and meets Lord Death.  She doesn’t want to die without having known love (it sounds a little hokey when I say it like that, but I swear it isn’t at all!), so she tells him part of a story, and he lets her live for another day, and if she can find her true love in that day, he’ll let her live entirely.

I was mighty impressed.  I will for sure be swinging by the library and picking up more of Martine Leavitt’s books.  My libraries only have two other ones, because Martine Leavitt is Canadian I suppose, but she has written like six more…  I am hoping this is one of those times where I am on the brink of having a new favorite author, rather than on the brink of being really disappointed by all the other crap I read by her.  Like that time I thought I was going to marry Salman Rushdie after I read Midnight’s Children and The Ground Beneath Her Feet and then I read Fury and Shame and now I’m totally scared to read Shalimar the Clown or The Satanic Verses or The Moor’s Last Sigh (which I’m saving, anyway, because it’s meant to be the best of those three).

Keturah and Lord Death was haunting – which is funny, because it was also light-hearted and cheerful.  It had the feel of a fairy tale, and furthermore it was a tidy-minded kind of book, which I am strongly in favor of.  I completely loved it how Keturah got back to the village and immediately started sorting things out and arranging things and making lemon pies.  Like Flora Post.  Loved it.  I even made a new “loved it” category, just for this book.