Monday, September 17, 2012

Highly recommended alert: Shalimar!

now finished: Shalimar the Clown by Salman Rushdie

I hadn't really planned to read Shalimar the Clown. Careful readers of this blog(and even some of the half-assed ones) will recall that Salman Rushdie was my 'R' author in my A-to-Z Literary Blog project, wherein I read a book from each of 26 new-to-me-but-famous-and-I-always-meant-to-read-them authors, one for each letter of the alphabet. (Mostly. Sorry, Gao.) For my first Rushdie, a few years back during the project, I read The Satanic Verses. (Um, it was weird. Good, but weird. And anyone who wants to kill an author for writing a book is a stupid worthless stupid dumb jerkity jerk, end of story, but no, I did not see anything in that book worth getting outraged about.)  Now, I am deep into my A-to-Z Top Half project, wherein I chose my 13 favorite authors of the 26 and am reading a second book by each of them. I have only a few left! So, here I am in Mexico, with less access to the books in English than I normally would have, so I asked some of my fellow expat reading peeps around these parts if they had any Salman Rushdie, because that's a pretty likely thing among travelers/English teachers, unlike some of my other A-to-Z top half authors (I'm looking at you, Warren-Styron.) I pretty much just assumed someone would have Midnight's Children, but instead, I was loaned Shalimar the Clown.

Well, guess what? It's awesome. I mean, seriously awesome. Its awesomenes sneaks up on you, too, so you're going along about page 350, 360 or so, and you've been caught up in these characters for a while, and you've learned a lot, and you REALLY want to go visit Kashmir because it just sounds heavenly, and you really like what he did with his descriptions of L.A. in the first chapter, and you totally dig lots of the characters who live in these two villages, and you are starting to think about big global issues because you see how its all coming together, and - wow! It hits you. This is going to a really awesome place, isn't it?

Of course, it's horrible, what happens. Because revenge is horrible, but specifically, death as revenge is horrible. And no, I am not spoiler-ing, because said murder happens in the first chapter, but then you learn more about it for the rest of the book. And you learn about a million other things besides. Among them: on what grounds would you, yourself, kill. To save your own life? Your family's? Your country's?  What about to save those entities' honor? Ahhhh, the lines we draw.

Salman Rushdie is, of course, awesomely equipped to write about this subject, being the object of the horrible stupid horrible nonsensical violent murderous horrible fatwa and all. But he doesn't hit you over the head; like I said, the awesomeness of the big questions sneaks up on you.

As I mentioned in my Goodreads review, this book should be required reading for everyone in the post-9/11 world, but unfortunately, so many people just would not get it.

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