The genius of this controversial juggernaut lies in the fact that you can interpret it two different ways. The scientific minds will interpret Gibreel...moreThe genius of this controversial juggernaut lies in the fact that you can interpret it two different ways. The scientific minds will interpret Gibreel's suffering as schizophrenia, while the artistic/spiritually inclined might view it as an archetypal struggle for humanity after the rise of monotheism. If you are scientific then this will probably be a waste of time for you to read. Taking an artistic perspective like I did is a much more rich approach. I've never read a book quite like it- it's a lot like a psychological thriller film that leaves you befuddled and confused, wanting to watch it right over again.
It begins with a plane exploding in the sky. Two diammetrically opposed human beings fall from it, both still alive, but their ensuing adventures are riddled with supernatural changes, changes on par with Biblical themes like Satan's fall in Paradise Lost (which, along with Arabian Nights, must have inspired this book). Interspersed with the main plots are vivid dream sequences that don The Satanic Verses a masterpiece of magical realism. Some of Rushdie's prose in this book is gorgeous; the first chapter took my breath away. One of my favorite things about The Satanic Verses is the delirious illumination- I'll never forget the butterflies after the storm, Allelulia Cone on Mt. Everest, the metamorphosis of London, heads disappearing under the Arabian Sea, etc. My only beef with this book is that it digressed a lot, but with the way Salman writes, who cares?
The following is my interpretation of everything (spoiler alert): Gibreel the actor becomes possessed by the archangel Gabriel- the Islamic Gabriel, not the Christian one- after the plane crash, as does Saladin become possessed by Satan, Shaitain, or whatever the hell you want to call him. (A near death experience can do this- while you are temporarily dead your body is prone to paranormal assault). The dreams that Gibreel have are memories from his past incarnations, each of which are parallel to the rise of monotheism. In the first dream, set during the Islamic revolution, Mahound represents Muhammad and Jahilia represents Mecca. Mahound's slaying of the goddess pantheon in Jahilia illustrates the beginning of female repression after the birth of Islam. In this past life Gibreel was Mahound, not the archangel that appeared to him. It might be construed that the dreams are from the point of view of the angel’s, but I think Salman did a brilliant job of making it seem like both. And I think it’s a totally valid theory because Gibreel is possessed by the angel, so his own memories are interspersed with that of the Gabriel’s, thus making it a convoluted dream mixing the present with the past. As Gibreel's soul fights the archangel for possession there is a slow psychological deterioration that presents quite an awesome climax in all three plots. This theory is further strengthened by the other dream sequence- the grand pilgrimage to Mecca, oddly represented by the India salt march of 1930. In this past life Gibreel was Gandhi with the appearance of Ayesha, a fantastical mirage of Allelulia Cone, his lover in the present life. This dream is even more convoluted than the first; it confuses the salt march for a pilgrimage, and Gibreel’s lover for Gandhi; aka- the battle for possession is really fucking with Gibreel’s head (the archangel appears to him in this one too, although I don’t believe Gandhi ever claimed to be a mystic). Maybe it wasn’t supposed to be Gandhi, but some other important figure who led a march that I’m unaware of.
I could be way off with all this, but that's the only way I could make sense of this matrix without scoffing experiences off as schizophrenia, which is really just a trendy way of saying "I don't understand this book". Furthermore, if anyone’s confused as to why a fatwah was declared because of this book, I’ll try to help: read the chapter Return To Jahilia. Rushdie is implying that the recitation of Gabriel was corrupted by his scribe- an embodiment of Satan (interestingly named Salman in the book), and therefore the whole of Islam is tainted with Satan’s contusions. Yikes! Also, the intensity of Gibreel’s madness sharpening while monotheism put a stranglehold on his dreams is a major shot at what happened in Mecca circa 700 AD.(less)
Half-way through I thought that unless Jack Ketchum really is a sick bastard I’d better check up on the background of this story because there’s no po...moreHalf-way through I thought that unless Jack Ketchum really is a sick bastard I’d better check up on the background of this story because there’s no possible way he could get away with writing this stuff without repercussions. After my research I was shaken by the fact that much of the torture in this book was based on the true story of Sylvia Likens and the Baniszewskis in 1965. In fact, Jack takes it even further and makes what Meg went through even worse, which really didn’t sit well with my ratings decision. I mean, the real story is horrifying enough, but to cap it off with what they did with the tire rubber? Ugh! Another thing I couldn’t stomach was that the narrator just stood and watched the torture like an indolent slug while most of this was going on. Perverted protagonists who do nothing while their “crush” is being tortured right in front of them just doesn’t compute.
I gave it 2 stars instead of 1 because despite the fact that the appalling events make it one of the most morally disturbing books out there it was still a suspenseful page-turner that kept me strapped to my seat, wanting to know what will happen next. But the interest while reading it is more like the interest one gets when driving by a three car pile-up; you know you shouldn’t, and some part of you doesn’t want to, but you just have to look.
After I read about the Likens case I got all heated and wrote a blog (http://chrisnet.livejournal.com/57718...) about how something like this could happen. It impacted me greatly: what Meg/Sylvia had to endure is unforgettable and the story is truly powerful because these were sweet, innocent girls. Sometimes I wish I’d never read this book, but I guess it’s important to be reminded of the heinous brutality that some people in this world are capable of. I like to think that Sylvia's suffering was not in vain because she's inspired so many people around the world to be courageous and strong in the clutches of a horrendous environment. If you're ever feeling down then just think about what Sylvia went through. Things could always be worse... a lot worse.(less)
Lyrical, haunting, colorful, and disturbing, Red Sorghum is a powerful novel that is set during one of the darkest periods of Chinese history: the Jap...moreLyrical, haunting, colorful, and disturbing, Red Sorghum is a powerful novel that is set during one of the darkest periods of Chinese history: the Japanese invasion of the 1930’s. I’d known from reading The Rape Of Nanking some of the horrors that Japanese soldiers did to defenseless civilians, but to read about them in a novel, one in which I grew to love its setting and characters, is especially unsettling. Amidst all the wretched spoils of war and unstable love affairs in Red Sorghum, atmospheric, dynamic descriptions of its natural setting are prominent in every chapter, especially ones involving the sun painting landscapes laden with fields of endless sorghum with rich color. At times I felt like the red, rising ball of the sun was a metaphor for the Japanese flag, the one which Japanese soldiers most likely marched into China with as the sun baked the Earth below with its threatening radioactivity.
Mo Yan is a controversial figure in China; his work is praised by the Communist party, but critics claim that their support makes him a proponent of censorship. While he has not outright said this, his own support of the party might suggest he shares the same view. However, his work would most likely be censored if he didn’t support the party, so I have doubts that he really is against censorship. It’s up to the reader to read between the lines and see if he he/she notices the anti-totalitarian themes in his novels. I’ve only read two of his novels, but I didn’t get the impression that he’s trying to glorify his government at all. If anything, he satirized it in The Republic Of Wine with the grandiose portrayals of savagery and gluttony that Liquorland’s ruling class displayed. Like Salman Rushide, an author as misunderstood as this should be recognized for his poetical talents, not for his supposed crusades against religious or political ideologies.(less)