Monday, October 10, 2005

Great Silliness in the Name of Fiction

As we've alluded to before, we are great Rushdie fans. Even so, we are disappointed by Shalimar the Clown.

First, the book is too thin to support episodes in LA, Kashmir, and Austria, let alone visits to France, London, and San Quentin. Midnight's Children was The Novel of 600 Pages Maximum; The Moor's Last Sigh was The More Modest Novel of 400 Pages Minimum, and both stayed in India. Shalimar barely makes 400 pages, leaving us with the feeling that we were only allowed one trip to the buffet with a pitifully small plate. A polyglot should not run out of words so quickly.

Then there is the problem of the plot. We can allow that Rushdie, who is the literary world's greatest target of terrorism, wants to write about the fantasies that swim around in the terrorist mind, which he does beautifully, including an astute portrayal of the scorned lover feigning religious fervor so as to become a jihadist who can kill with both passion and God's blessing. His terrorist also gives him a springboard for a discussion about the differences between a society whose creation myth obsesses on transgression and redemption and a society without original sin that must instead obsess over honor and shame. More generally, we agree that any story about the beauties of Kashmir must mention the uglies of Kashmir.

The reality of Kashmir's devils combined with the magic of a circus clown and tightrope walker who can truly walk on air is not magic realism, though. It is silliness in the name of fiction.

UPDATE: The NYTimes has finally reviewed Shalimar, two months after its release, which just reinforces how silly the thing is. Salman, get your act together before you go the way of George Lucas.

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