Monday, July 6, 2015

On the Coffee Table: Salman Rushdie

Title: The Moor's Last Sigh
Author: Salman Rushdie
via Amazon
Salman Rushdie is probably the most famous Asian-born author in the world, and for all the wrong reasons.  In 1988, he published The Satanic Verses, a book so controversial in the Muslim world that Iran's Ayatollah declared a fatwa, calling for the author's assassination.  Until now, I'd never read any of Rushdie's novels.

The Moor's Last Sigh was Rushdie's first novel to be published after the hubbub.  The book provides the fictitious family history of narrator Moraes "Moor" Zogoiby, a Portuguese-Jewish-Indian man living in double-time.  For him, one year of chronological time equals two years of biological aging.  By the time he reaches ten years of age, for instance, he looks like he's 20.

Even with his temporal quirk, the narrator is the story's least interesting character.  The colorful personalities span four generations.  The family's history provides a window into the grand sweep of India's volatile history in the 20th century.  Moor's parents are both based on real-life figures.  Mother Aurora Zogoiby was inspired by artist Amrita Sher-Gil, father Abraham by arch-criminal Dawood Ibrahim.  All of the characters are thoroughly detestable, from Moor on up.  As such, it's difficult to find a rooting interest.  The footholds are found in the author's frequently beautiful prose and his occasional moments of trippy magical realism.

While I admire Rushdie's skill, I had a hard time getting into this one.  I was charmed by clever puns and Shakespeare and Wizard of Oz references but the playful language often goes a bit too far, pulling me out of the narrative rather than further into it.  I appreciate the unusual perspective on Indian history and the glimpse into the country's niche "Western" populations.  But the lack of likeable characters detracted from my enjoyment of the overall narrative. 

26 comments:

  1. That novel is one of my husband's favorites, but I feel much the same as you about it.

    By the way, I would like to join your last-Friday-of-the-month book club. I just finished All the Light We Cannot See and I can't imagine I shall read anything else this month that I like even half so much.

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    1. Please join us! Just sign on to the list via the badge in the top right of my blog. I'll leave a link on your site, too.

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  2. I remember The Satanic Verses death threats, but never have took the time to read any of his work.

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    1. I don't know if I'd seek out more. Part of me wants to read Satanic Verses out of morbid curiosity.

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    2. Morbid curiosity? It's a great book. Period.

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    3. Absolutely! Morbid curiosity over the controversy.

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  3. I've never read his books, but I love likeable characters! So, I probably wouldn't enjoy it. Great job with the review, and I'm wishing you an exceptional Monday buddy!

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    1. Happy Monday to you, too, Maurice! Looking forward to our Twitter party tomorrow.

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  4. I haven't read this book, but heard him speak at Calvin's College Festival of Faith and Writing in 2006 or 08. He was interesting for although he grew up Muslim, he no longer considers himself religious but writes about faith... I have an autographed copy of Shalimar the Clown and am afraid to say, I have never read it... it's one of about 30 books on my tbr pile and it's been there for a decade.

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    1. There's no denying his brilliance. Some of his passages are breathtaking. It's tempting to cut and paste a few of them into the post but they might not mean as much out of context. Moor's Last Sigh just isn't quite what I'm looking for in an absorbing read.

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  5. I haven't read his stuff either. The Satanic Verses is on my TBR list.
    Susan Says

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    1. If you do read it, let me know what you think.

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  6. I always wanted to read The Satanic Verses, after the ayatollah put out a hit on Salman Rushdie. But I never got around to reading it. It is on my list but who knows if I will ever get to it.

    cheers, parsnip

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  7. Another author I haven't gotten to, yet. He's on my list.

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  8. I heard all about the fatwa at the time but I never got the chance to check any of his books.

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    1. My wife's a fan. I think there may be another of his books around the house.

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  9. I haven't read any of books tho I remember when The Satanic Verses came out. I really need someone to follow if I'm going to love a book.

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    1. I need a reason to care about the outcome. A sympathetic character is usually the easiest way.

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  10. I need characters I like. It's my thing...I want a book I connect with emotionally. Not sure I could get into this...

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    1. Doesn't strike me as your sort of thing.

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  11. My horribly airplane-phobic friend brought The Satanic Verses with him to read on a flight to Puerto Rico. He wanted to see what all the hubbub was about. About a hour in to our flight, I told him I knew it was just a prop; if he was actually reading it he would have realized there was a plane crash in the first pages...

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  12. I am familiar with the author and his Satanic Verses, but I've never read any of his work. I like reading books about faith, but he seems to hyped with controversey and I'm not into that. Still, sorry you didn't like it more.

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    1. The Moor's Last Sigh has a highly irreverent view of faith - all faiths.

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