Lynne's Reviews > Fury

Fury by Salman Rushdie
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's review
Mar 23, 2009

did not like it

If you are a fan of the band Neutral Milk Hotel and/or Rock Plaza Central, you’re familiar with the way some of the songs descend into a glorious cacophonous mess at the end (similar to The Beatles song “A Day in the Life”). What seems to be a chaotic aural blend of instrumentation somehow works; it’s pleasing to the ear. When I started Salman Rushdie’s Fury, I had the same hope for it, that somehow the jumbled chaos of characters, settings, and events would evolve into a story not simply understandable but beautiful, and not beautiful in spite of its flaws but because of them. Unfortunately, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Rushdie’s exegesis on the supposed furies that we all feel hinges on his protagonist, Malik Solanka, an Indian philosophy professor who previously lived in England but moved to The Big Apple when he suddenly found himself standing over his wife and children with a carving knife. He became famous in England for making dolls, specifically one called “Little Brain,” a little girl puppet who interviews famous philosophers. The show became a huge success, Solanka sells out to commercial producers, and this ultimately leads to his "fury." Oh, and did I mention that he drinks? A lot?

He’s not the most likable fellow on whom to pin a story; not that protagonists need to be likable (look at Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky, hell, almost anything by an Eastern European author), but they do need to be engrossing and, sadly, Solanka just isn’t. Indeed, every character in this book is simply a cardboard cutout: Lifeless and un-interesting. And then there are the numerous sub-plots (the murders of NYC women for example) that are never completely realized or related to Solanka, so I question what they are even doing in the story.

I understand that this is supposed to be satirical, that Rushdie is poking fun at contemporary American life among the intellectual and the wealthy. I also understand that he is playing with our conception of the furies (female spirits of justice and vengeance) of ancient Greek and Roman mythology. “Life is fury. Fury—sexual, oedipal, political, magical, brutal—drives us to our finest heights and coarsest depths. This is what we are, what we civilize ourselves to disguise—the terrifying human animal in us, the exalted, transcendent, self-destructive, untrammeled lord of creation. We raise each other to the heights of joy. We tear each other limb from bloody limb,” Solanka says. However, good satire is supposed to expose certain profound truths about its subjects, and I don’t think Rushdie does this with any success. He doesn’t make us feel for his characters (in fact, the entire story strikes me as a bit misogynistic), and he doesn’t make us want to investigate what he is mocking.

Don’t peg me as a Rushdie hater; I loved Midnight’s Children! But this definitely does not do for New York what Midnight’s Children did for Bombay. This is a different Rushdie; this Rushdie has embraced certain critics’ views of his work, the critics who praise him for doing things with style and language that no one else can accomplish and say that this makes up for his somewhat loose grip on plot and character development. It’s almost as if he took these reviews as a personal challenge to see how far he could go before readers noticed that he’s just fucking with us. And the result sucks.
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Reading Progress

March 23, 2009 – Shelved
April 13, 2009 –
page 4
Started Reading
April 21, 2009 – Finished Reading

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