Monday, October 1, 2012

Salman Rushdie: A Literary Hero

Since it's Banned Book Week here in the States, I want to highlight a writer whose books have been met with much more opposition than some grade-school library challenges. He also happens to be one of my favorite authors.

I first encountered Rushdie through his great, critically acclaimed novel Midnight's Children. To this day, I know little of India's modern history except through the allegorical lens of these characters born at midnight on the day India's independence began. Even with the connections going over my head, I enjoyed the vibrant, magical, mundane, superficially silly, profoundly serious tone of Rushdie's storytelling. I feel like he was trying to capture a culture in a few human beings as in Joyce's Ulysses, except this is actually fun to read.

Before there were Dutch cartoons and an awful movie trailer, there was this wonderful wonderful novel that put Rushdie on a hitlist for being offensive to some Muslims. The most controversial passage is only one of three long dreams by a modern day Bollywood actor with, well, an interesting psychological condition after surviving a fall from an exploding airplane. Did I mention it's not written in strict realist style? Since I don't hold strong positive or negative feelings about Muhammad, I found this dream the least interesting part of the book. For others, it can be life changing. (I was drawn most strongly to the dream about Ayesha and the butterflies.)

Rushdie's stories for adults are whimsical enough; he cranks the whimsy up to eleven for this children's novel. Appropriate around the same time as Alice in Wonderland and The Neverending Story, and definitely in the spirit of both. It's ok to read this as an adult too! Haroun and the Sea of Stories might even be the best place to start on Rushdie.

This one was published just last month and is on my to-read-soon list. Joseph Anton is Rushdie's own story of what it's like to be a writer in hiding. It even comes in deckle edge. Deckle edge is cool.

Are any of you already Rushdie fans? Or if you pick something up after reading this post, I'd love to hear back about it!

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