It's such a shame that this book is know only for the murderous ravings of a lunatic cleric and his followers. Had the fatwa not occurred, this book sIt's such a shame that this book is know only for the murderous ravings of a lunatic cleric and his followers. Had the fatwa not occurred, this book should still have been famous. Rushdie has a unique style of writing that I found utterly captivating and enchanting. Within the space of a few short pages, he can make more out of a short aside story than most authors can of their entire work.
I read Rushdie because I felt like dipping into the 'magical realism' genre, and it definitely delivered. Part of the novel is the story of Gibreel Farishta, an Indian film star, and Saladin Chamcha, an Indian ex-pat voice over artist. Both fall from the sky when their hijacked airplane explodes and miraculously survive their fall, being transformed into the archangel Gibreel and the devil, respectively. The other part of the novel takes place in aside stories, where Gibreel appears as the archangel to Mahound (the prophet), an exiled cleric (clearly meant to resemble Khomeini), and a 'prophetess' who leaves her village on a pilgrimage to Mecca, straight through the Arabian sea.
I feel like I don't understand half of what Rushdie was trying to say, and the half I think I do understand, I probably don't. There are a lot of references to various Indian/British histories, as well as Islamic religious and cultural references that just flew over my head. This is a book that I would not at all mind reading a second or third time just to go back and pick up everything I missed. What I do think I semi-understood was Rushdie's emphasis on 'rebirth', belief or faith, and truth.
Just as the reality of many of the events of the story seems to always be in question, so does the reality of divine communication/revelation. From Gibreel's transformation and communication with higher powers, to Mahound's recitation, or the prophetess' intercession, skepticism and uncertainty seem to be a running theme. The 'quest for truth' and the uncertainty that plagues it might be the thread that binds the often seemingly unrelated stories together. Or not. I'm just not sure?
'Nuff said. Some quotes I liked:
The anger with God carried him through another day, but then it faded, and in its place there came a terrible emptiness, an isolation, as he realized he was talking to thin air, that there was nobody there at all, and then he felt more foolish than ever in his life, and he began to plead into the emptiness, ya Allah, just be there, damn it, just be. But he felt nothing, and then one day he found that he no longer needed there to be anything to feel. On that day of metamorphosis the illness changed and his recovery began. And to prove to himself the non-existence of God, he now stood in the dining-hall of the city's most famous hotel, with pigs falling out of his face.
Language is courage: the ability to conceive a thought, to speak it, and by doing so to make it true.
The world is finite; our hopes spill over its rim.
O, the conflicting selves jostling and joggling within these bags of skin. No wonder we are unable to remain focused on anything for very long; no wonder we invent remote-control channel-hopping devices. If we turned these instruments upon ourselves we'd discover more channels than a cable or satellite mogul ever dreamed of...
I hated this book. It does, however, get two stars simply because it contained a kick-ass gun-wielding evil cyborg Jesus. I mean, who doesn't love thaI hated this book. It does, however, get two stars simply because it contained a kick-ass gun-wielding evil cyborg Jesus. I mean, who doesn't love that?
There is something to be said for taking artistic/non-traditional approaches to a book's structure. When that approach leaves the story line clear as mud coupled with what I suspected was an already difficult reading due to translation from Japanese, there is nothing good to be said. While things do become more or less clear if you trudge it out until the very end, you will want to throw the book (or kindle) against the wall more times than is healthy before you make it there.
The good things that this book does have going for it are: beautiful opening prologue of the creation of the universe, massive scope and scale, fun conspiracy-esque infusions of exogenesis, ancient aliens, different dimensions, and, finally, existentialist reflection on life, destruction, and the relentless search for meaning. I couldn't help but feel that if the book wasn't so muddled, it could have been something I really would have enjoyed.
But, such is life. It is what it is, and it's not what it's not. ...more
Wow. I have mixed feelings about this book. Almost every review written here bemoans the lengthy, dull middle section of this book, and I have to agreWow. I have mixed feelings about this book. Almost every review written here bemoans the lengthy, dull middle section of this book, and I have to agree. I had to put it down for about a month and a half and then force myself to trudge through the tedious history. The rest of the book contains the intensely beautiful, deep, and conflicted writing that I have come to expect from Anne Rice, and I can't help but feel that it would have ranked among my favorites of her books had it only been for less painful background. At the same time, I have to admit that the history did give the story a breadth and fantastic fullness.
Anne Rice's books contain some of the most honest and heartfelt questions on good, evil, suffering, mortality, religion, and existence, hidden in what some write off as cheap fiction. Don't make that mistake. Ann Rice is something more, and this book is not an exception to that rule....more