Saturday, May 14, 2005

Fury by Salman Rushdie

Fury by Salman Rushdie

I didn’t enjoy Fury nearly so much as Midnight’s Children, with which, as all present know, I was enchanted. Fury is the tale of a Professor, more or less Rushdie himself, who leaves his wife and child in England and goes to NYC. Set sometime during the dot com bubble of the so-called new millennium, Fury is the fantasized account of Prof. Solonick’s womanizing and emotional outbursts. There’s a murder mystery, and a lot of semi-interesting discussion surrounding the relationship between creators and their creations. There’s a cool story-within-a-story which tells a fantastic tale of the inventor Chronos, whose puppets turn against him. There’s a farcical ending which dissolves into a military junta, and some other fairly incomprehensible unraveling plot threads.

Seeing Rushdie turn his mind, eye, and formidable abilities with language towards (almost) modern America is fascinating. All of the writing here is top quality, the type of prose that most authors will only dream of ever getting near. But the overall package is largely forgettable. The passion with which Rushdie writes about his homeland in earlier works, when alchemically transmuted into the rage and fury he feels for the new world in this book loses a lot of it’s power.

I’d love to give more time to this book, because Rushdie deserves more than a few tossed off sentences. Unfortunately, I’m now officially 14 books behind, half a world away from where I was when I read this, and six months older, so any brilliant observations I might have once had are gone. Out of respect, however, I will at least quote some of the passages that I made notations on in the back of my copy.

17 Reference Stew describing one of the Prof. S’s early creations:

“Little Brain, his hip, fashion-conscious, but still idealistic Candide, his Valiant-for-Truth in urban guerrilla threads, his spiky-haired girl-Basho journeying, mendicant bowl in hand, far into the Deep North of Japan. Little Brain was smart, sassy, unafraid, genuinely interested in the deep information… For example, the favorite fiction writer of the seventeenth-century heretic Baruch Spinoza turned out to be PG Wodehouse, an astonishing coincidence, because of course the favorite philosopher of the immortal shimmying butler Reginald Jeeves was Spinoza. (Spinoza who cut our strings, who allowed God to retire from the post of divine marionettist, and believed that revelation was an event not above human history but inside it.) The Great Minds for Little Brain could be time-hoppers too. The Iberian Arab thinker Averroes, like his Jewish counterpart Maimonides, was a Yankees fan.”

(Note Rushdie’s typical amazing command of history & philosophy. Note too him weaving creator/created relationships into each section.)

86 A description of modern US urban life:

“Things appeared to proceed by logic, according to the laws of psychological verisimilitude and the deep inner coherences of metropolitan life, but in fact all was mystery. But perhaps his was not the only identity to be coming apart at the seams. Behind the façade of this age of gold, this time of plenty, the contradictions and impoverishment of the Western human individual, or let’s say the human self in America, were deepening and widening. Perhaps that wider disintegration was also to be made visible in this city of fiery, jeweled garments and secret ash, in this time of public hedonism and private fear.”

137 Ever wanted to know Rushdie’s take on oral sex re Clinton?

“…Professor Solanka’s as-yet-unpublished theory on the differening attitudes towards oral sex in the United States and England— this aria being prompted by the president’s inane decision to start apologizing yet again for what he should always have crisply said was nobody else’s business— got a sympathetic hearing from the young woman snuggled down in his lap. “In England,” he explained in his most straightlaced style, “The heterosexual b.j. is almost never offered or received before full, penetrative coitus has taken place, and sometimes not even then. It’s considered a sign of deep intimacy. Also a sexual reward for good behavior. It’s rare. Whereas in America, with all your well established tradition of teenage, ah, ‘makeouts’ in the backs of various iconic automobiles, ‘giving head’ to use the technical term, precedes ‘full’ missionary-position sex more often than not; indeed, it’s the most common way for young girls to preserve their virginity while keeping their sweethearts satisfied.”

150 Or finally, who could pass up quoting his take on W?

“…’there’s no difference between the candidates. That Gush-and-Bore stuff is getting so old. It makes me hopping mad.’

‘No difference?’ she cried. ‘How about, for example, geography? How about, for example, knowing where my poor little homeland is on a map of the world?’ Solanka remembers that George W. Bush has been ambushed by a journalist’s crafty question during a foreign policy Q-and-A one month before the Republican convention. ‘Could you indicate that nation to us on the map? And what was the name of it’s capital city again?’ Two curve balls, two strikes.” Obviously, Rushdie thinks as highly as our erstwhile prez. as I do…

So, if you are looking for this sort of thing, read Fury. But if you haven’t already, run, don’t walk and buy a copy of Midnight’s Children instead.

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