Rushdie is the first of the Booker winners that I knew anything about before beginning this project. Nonetheless, I had a
difficult complicated experience
reading this book. So, since others have written far more intelligently about
its plot and meaning, I’ll just tell you what it was like for me.
To be honest, I was reluctant to start “yet another” book about India. That’s why I wrote the blog post titled “Interlude”: pure procrastination.
The narrator, Saleem Sinai, has a putative audience of one, his companion Padma. He begins by introducing his grandparents, and several of the motifs that will recur and weave this loose tapestry together. Saleem himself is not even born until well past the hundred-page mark. And it took me over two hundred pages to get really interested in the book. The style is that of a sauntering saga, an unrushed meandering through several generations, and it drove me nuts -- until I decided to just lie back and let go. Since that didn’t happen until about page 300 of 500, I wasted a lot of time resisting this book.
It is repetitive, and verbose, and grandiose. Rushdie has a way of stringing together three words when one would do. Is he too lazy to choose? Or showing off his vocabulary? But, when I finally surrendered, the repetition-with-a-difference became lulling, like lying on a beach listening to waves: almost the same, but different each time, building imperceptibly to crescendos, then dying down again, weaving a texture of symbols and sounds. I was pulled along with the tide of the story, and learned a lot about India and Pakistan in the process.
I also learned that some books just can’t be rushed through.