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The Ground Beneath Her Feet
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1001 Monthly Group Read > March {2008} Discussion -- THE GROUND BENEATH HER FEET by Salman Rushdie

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mara | 220 comments Mod
I seriously doubt everybody's all done but that's cool. This was pretty full. Let's just jump in anyway.

From NPR

"Salman Rushdie's The Ground Beneath Her Feet is a great (but not easy) read. The book tells the story of three young people from India who ride the wave of the rock 'n' roll industry in the 20th century. A life-long love triangle between the three depicts what some have called a re-telling of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice.

"This germ of the story doesn't begin to describe the journey you'll take as a reader. Rushdie's massive vocabulary, cultural references, and odd blend of realism and fantasy will expand your mind and entertain at the same time. If you want a book that causes you to think, analyze and keep a dictionary handy, this is a good one."

So what did you "think"?

Smarti | 46 comments I have about 100 more pages to go - and I enjoyed the past 500 pages a lot! To me, this was an hypnotic read, similarily to my experience with The Satanic Verses. In difference to that book, however, I actually knew what was going on. I enjoyed following the characters through their struggle as much as observing all those references to myths, politics, music and so much more. If I had one criticism, it would be that the characters as such are kind-of two-dimensional - I couldn't really symphatize with them.

message 3: by Kim (new) - rated it 2 stars

Kim (kimbobo) I've got a few more hundred pages to go. I couldn't find the book anywhere so I got it pretty late. I'll try to finish it up this weekend!

mara | 220 comments Mod
oops forgot it was leap year

message 5: by Jim (new) - added it

Jim | 6 comments just reserved this book from library
how long does it take 2 read?

Chloe (countessofblooms) | 140 comments This remains one of my favorite Rushdie books. I really enjoyed the story and the way that it tied together the story of Orpheus with a modern rock and roll slant. My favorite scene remains the one with the earthquake in Tequila that let loose a flood of spirits through the town. The way Rushdie described that scene was priceless and I had to read it out loud to my wife so that she could share in the hilarity. Maybe I have a twisted sense of humor, but I thought it was really funny.

Smarti- I can definitely understand what you mean when you say the characters are two-dimensional. That has really been a big problem with me when I read Rushdie. It's not just this book, but extends to Satanic Verses, especially Satanic Verses, and Midnight's Children as well. His characters seem to be nothing more than cardboard cut-outs that he uses to illustrate various points - points which are so engrossing and poignant that we can forgive him his poor characterization in favor of the general flow of the story. Sometimes it gets really frustrating though.

I'm curious, what did everyone else think?

message 7: by mara (last edited Mar 01, 2008 10:24PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

mara | 220 comments Mod
The two-dimensional characters are part of the style. Characters who are more dynamic take more time to develop.

The characters were more like vehicles for his observations about the culture(s).

That said, I liked the flood of tequila part too.

"the urinous river of tequila made its frothing way into the lanes of the town, the leading wave of the torrent overtook the fleeing populace and turned it head over heels, and such was the potency of the brew that those who swallowed mouthfuls of that angelic surf came up not only wet and gasping but drunk.

Love that.

The writing is good but the overarching point he seemed to be making about celebreties fell flat for me.

He seemed to be saying that singers have taken the place of the gods. But I just kept thinking, no, not really - even when people really like a singer - or any celebrity - their regard is so fickle. And then most celebrities who do achieve that god-like status (like Lennon) do so because of some magnetic aspect of their personality that makes people want to follow them and look to them.

I don't think this novel did much to show us how Ormus and Vina achieved their tremendous popularity. What made them stand apart from all the others. It was as if these two were the only musicians alive and music first began with them. Did it? Maybe I just didn't get it. Did that ring true for everyone else?

message 8: by Ana (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ana | 23 comments This is the first novel by Rushdie I have read and I really enjoyed his style! It is so lyrical! There were so many references that I am thinking of skimming it again in the near future to see what else I catch! :-) I also think that his characters fell flat, but I am glad to know that I am not the only one who thought so! For some odd reason, the only character that I really felt anything for was Mull Standish! I'm not sure why, maybe because of his tragic story. Hmm....

Mara- I also thought that Ormus and Vina's fame seemed really over the top. I also didn't quite get Ormus and Vina's love for each other. It seemed like they were so wrapped up in different things that it was just a word or idea that they used as a safety blanket. I don't know.....

Overall, though I enjoyed the read! It was fun!

mara | 220 comments Mod
Hey Ana! You must have just posted this and I just logged on. So who did you picture as Ormus and Vina?

I know it doesn't fit but I kept thinking of Carlos from desperate housewives and couldn't get it out of my head.

message 10: by Ana (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ana | 23 comments Hi Mara!

I actually pictured Oded Fehr as Ormus, which was great because I think he is so handsome. For Vina, it was tough! I kept thinking 'wild over the top diva' so the image of Tina Turner and Beyonce kept popping into my head!

Carlos, now that I think about, would be a good choice! hee hee!

message 11: by mara (new) - rated it 3 stars

mara | 220 comments Mod
I had trouble picturing Vina at all - she's described as looking like Hatshepsut. But that face always looked kind of old and serious to me. Carlos and Hatshepsut....

If Ormus and Vina existed in real life they'd end up part of some ridiculous side show to real life on the gossip magazines like Sonny and Cher or Branjelina

It just occured to me that maybe the tone was colored by the narrator and time. The story was told from the perspective of someone who really did worship her, and after her death. Thinking of how princess Di went from sideshow to practically a religious icon

Chloe (countessofblooms) | 140 comments Up until I looked up its date of publication on Wikipedia, I thought this book was written in the 1980s. The sheer size and spectacle of Ormus and Vina's fame just struck me as being really similar to that of the 80's superstars like Madonna and Van Halen. That level of showmanship just doesn't seem relevant to the post millennial era.

Rachel (wildhoney) I actually "listened" to this on audiobook. I am glad that I listened to it because the narrator made the story come completely to life. However, I kind of wich I read it because Salman Rushdie has an amazing use of vocabulary that is both rich and beautiful.

I enjoyed this book but most of all I am glad that I was exposed to Salman Rushdie as an author. I agree with the character development being a bit lacking. I never knew if I should like or hate or feel sorry for the characters. So that was kind of confusing. But the storytelling in general is amazing.

I anticipated this to be more of a "rock and roll" story. I know the backdrop was in the rock world, but there was so much more to the story than that.

message 14: by Rachel (last edited Mar 04, 2008 09:30AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rachel (wildhoney) The U2 connection. . .

Did you guys know that U2 actually put music to the song that Ormus wrote for Vina? "The Ground Beneath Her Feet" is on the soundtrack for A Million Dollar Hotel. I wrote a bit about it and posted a link to the video on my blog if anyone wants to check it out.

I totally got chills when reading the lyrics in the book. The song is old and I have known it for a long time, but it was so neat to read it in context of the book.

message 15: by mara (new) - rated it 3 stars

mara | 220 comments Mod
Oh, yes, thanks for bringing that up Rachel! I meant to find that song last weekend but forgot.

Yea...I just don't know what to make of the characters. The fact that they were celebrities actually took interest away from the love story for me. It was like their love was somehow more important or grander than anyone elses. I just don't get that. Lennon and Yoko were just people the same as us and so were all the others...

Rachel (wildhoney) So what do you guys think about Ormus' 10-year vow of abstinence? Did anyone find that as weird as I did? I know the length was determined by Vina when she told him she'd be ready to get married in 10-years, but to me that whole thing seemed to be as exaggerated as how famous VTO became.

message 17: by Matt (new) - rated it 5 stars

Matt | 1 comments This is great, a discussion of one of my favorite contemporary books. I think it would be worth rereading a second time for me. I'm glad others are enjoying reading it at the same time.
Is this group a bookclub? I just joined awhile back and forgot that I joined.
Take care,

message 18: by mara (new) - rated it 3 stars

mara | 220 comments Mod
Hi Matt

Yes, it's a bookclub. We just started this month. Basically we run a random number generator and to get 4 picks from the 1001 list. Then we vote. Next month we read Julie by Rousseau. It's 700 pages but what's that to us right?

When you've reread some of Ground BHF some come back and post a question or comment or something :-)

message 19: by mara (new) - rated it 3 stars

mara | 220 comments Mod
Rachel, I really thought Rushdie was trying to portray Ormus and Vina as gods or dieties so maybe the 10 year abstinance was a play on the Virgin theme in religion. Or, another possibility is that he was pointing out an irony in Indian culture, that they are very sensual but have strict rules about propriety. I don't know firsthand obviously, but he plays with the same theme in Shame. Sex is always just under the pious facade. A big part of this book seemed to be the way India/Bombay was at a crossroads, how it was both glitzy and modern and promiscuous and old-fashioned and tied down by its history and the old ways (sorry for such a wordy post, not quite sure how to say all that better right now)

Smarti | 46 comments I think that the characters of Ormus and Vina are indeed portrayed as deities. This is why, I guess, they might seem detached and this is also why, on another level, they become superstars. I read that Ormus and Vina are recreating the Orpheus & Euridice story. I was able to follow some references of that, but far from all! What do you all think about the connection to Orpheus & Euridice? Were you able to grasp that connection? I was really struggling with this aspect of the story.

Rachel (wildhoney) Mara, I guess I understand how you think that Rushdie was trying to portray Ormus and Vina as gods/goddesses . . . but who would want Vina to be a goddess??? She is more like Medusa! She wasn't nice to anybody, used people all the time, played with everybody's heart. In fact, I didn't really like anything about Vina. I just wanted to shake her and tell her to wake up!

Smarti, I have never heard of the "Orpheus & Euridice story". I'll have to check it out on wikipedia :)

message 22: by mara (new) - rated it 3 stars

mara | 220 comments Mod
Orpheus and Eurydice is pretty classic. Eurydice is stolden into the Underworld. Orpheus wants to save her so he goes down there and plays his music for Hades. Hades grants him Eurydice as a return favor for the great music. But the condition is that Eurydice has to make it all the way out without looking back. Well, she looks back, turns into to stone and Orpheus...well I'm not sure what then. It's Sodom and Gomora the Musical.

How this relates to GBHF, other than, "there's music" I'm not sure because, I'm like Ana, my favorite parts were the minor characters. I found it really hard to like or care about the main ones. What I got out of it was kind of limited. Wish I "got" the Orpheus theme, but - again - I found it hard to care.

message 23: by mara (last edited Mar 07, 2008 07:37PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

mara | 220 comments Mod
Oh! one more thing on Orpheus and Eurydice. You know Don Angel (the vodka vendor) sings Trianfo Amore from Gluck's Orpheo. Well the humor of that whole vodka scene is just not complete without actually listening to this song. I was thinking it would be something sublime I guess, given the subject (Orpheus losing the love he worked so long to win back) and since Rushdie gives this whole set up - something about how a "countertenor's voice silences all arguments." But this song was so the opposite of how I would think the final scene in the Orpheo story would sound...It was just so, so "tippy tippy through the tulips/men in tights." It was really just funny. I think a big part of this book, especially the beginning is all about revealing that behind the grand facade of tragedy and poignant emotions and all of that the true face of human life is the Ridiculous and that there are actors in the great Farce and there are spectators. You're a Don Angel sometimes and sometimes you're in the crowd riding the vodka current.

Chloe (countessofblooms) | 140 comments Rachel, in a way they're very similar to the Greek gods and goddesses. Very fickle, very demanding, and very quick to betray a mortal for a laugh. Those Greeks were up to some definite shenanigans. I mean, just look at Helen of Troy. Zeus turned into a swan and raped her mother, thus fathering the face that would launch 1000 ships. Not behavior that is typically associated with modern Abrahamic faiths, but one that is very familiar throughout history as well as in the Hinduism of today.

message 25: by mara (new) - rated it 3 stars

mara | 220 comments Mod
Making the birth of Judaism one of the most successful political manuevers in the history of mankind...

What about the other characters? What are your favorite ones, and (scratching my head on this one) what purpose did they have in the story over all (just entertainment, part of the landscape?)

message 26: by Kim (last edited Mar 14, 2008 03:38PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Kim (kimbobo) Ok, I finally found the time to finish this one. This is one of the few books that I really did not want to finish. If it wasn't for this book club I would have stopped reading it midway.

To me, this book was a roller coaster. At some points I was "I love it!" and at other points I was bored out of my mind and skimmed my way through. What annoyed me was that when it was in an interesting story line it would suddenly vear off in some other weird direction.

the fantasy/reality split was difficult for me. I prefer either historical fiction...or fantasy. Not this in-between stuff! =) Kept making me want to search for historical figures in wikipedia to see if they really existed!

message 27: by mara (last edited Mar 15, 2008 09:00AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

mara | 220 comments Mod
that might be fun - to wiki stuff in the book :-)

Hmmm makes you wonder if "before you die" has another meaning - as in, this book is so boring you'll want to take your own life, hehe

Smarti | 46 comments Again, I didn't find it boring at all. I guess, I could understand why one would though. Mara, I did not understand what you meant by

"Making the birth of Judaism one of the most successful political manuevers in the history of mankind..."

Maybe you could explain that to me :-)

message 29: by mara (last edited Mar 15, 2008 08:37PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

mara | 220 comments Mod
Logan said,
Zeus turned into a swan and raped her mother, thus fathering the face that would launch 1000 ships. Not behavior that is typically associated with modern Abrahamic faiths, but one that is very familiar throughout history as well as in the Hinduism of today.

Gods are like political leaders, only invisible. A god who cares for his people and woudl not deliberately harm them to satisfy his selfish whims (though he does go into jealous rages) is bound to be more popular than one who would rape a swan.

I'm saying "God" of Abraham was Obama to "Zeus's" W.Bush.

Smarti | 46 comments I was just curious: did any of you listen to the U2 song of the same name? it's awesome and Rushdie is even in the video-clip :-). Oh and could you maybe suggest me some other titles by Rushdie (other than the satanic verses)?

message 31: by mara (new) - rated it 3 stars

mara | 220 comments Mod
I didn't yet! Forgot. But, you know, everytime I picked up the book, I thought about that scene in Bridget Jones' Diary when she gives that awful speech at the publisher's party. "And - you - Mr. Rushdie are very good as well" I laugh my head off every time I watch that movie. (so easy to relate!)

Chloe (countessofblooms) | 140 comments Smarti, I really enjoyed Midnight's Children quite a bit more than Satanic Verses. It's deals more with the political struggle in India during Partition as well as the abuses committed by Indira Gandhi. Another one that I loved was Haroun & the Sea of Stories, which was more of a children's bedtime story but fantastically good nonetheless.

Cathy | 31 comments Midnight's Children is my absolute favorite Rushdie.

I'm STILL reading Ground Beneath! I'm really enjoying it, but this novel is quite a timesuck.

I'm finding the narrator to be quite the ambiguous figure ... what did people make of him?

message 34: by Ana (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ana | 23 comments Hi guys!

Not sure where everyone lives, but I just wanted to post that Salman Rushdie is coming to Santa Barbara for a lecture in early May. I can forward the link to anyone who is interested.

I thought it would be really interesting seeing as we just read it :-)

Hope everyone is having a great week!

Debbie I finally finished the book this morning. It took me almost three weeks to read, which is unusual for me. I enjoyed it, but it was a challenging read, especially the first 300 pages. Up until then, I found that I could only read about 10-15 pages before I felt an overwhelming urge to take a nap.

I had a similar reaction to Kim's. There were parts that were so profound and insightful that I was absolutely enthralled and other parts that I skimmed just so they'd be over.

Overall, I liked it, but I didn't really identify with either Ormus or Vina. Rai was interesting, as were several of the minor characters. I wanted to know more about Vina's parents and Ormus' brothers.

message 36: by mara (new) - rated it 3 stars

mara | 220 comments Mod
Cool news Ana. Did you get to see him?

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