Archive for August 9th, 2009

Salman Rushdie and Creative Invention

Here are some things I like: rock music, stories about rock music, Greek mythology, modern re-tellings of ancient myths, alternate histories, esoterically allusive novels, trendy novelists. Given these preferences, Salman Rushdie’s The Ground Beneath Her Feet seems like a book written not so much for me as at me: Rushdie’s novel is a re-imagining of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice set against the backdrop of the musical culture of the 1960s, 70s and 80s. I seem ideally suited to like this book.

And yet there is something very much off about it.

For one, Rusdie begins at the end: The novel opens with, “On St. Valentine’s Day, 1989, the last day of her life, the legendary popular singer Vina Apsara woke sobbing from a dream of human sacrifice in which she had been the intended victim.”

Beginning with the death of one of the two central characters (the “Eurydice” figure), Rushdie then goes backwards to tell us where she came from, how she met her soul mate, Ormus Cama (“Orpheus”), as well as our narrator Umeed “Rai” Merchant (also in love with Vina), and how she became a “legendary popular singer.”

Now, beginning at the end is not inherently bad— many great novels have done it successfully (Infinite Jest, American Pastoral, The Invisible Man). In this instance, though, it is indicative of the way Rushdie jumps around chronologically, never letting the story settle down and simply unfold. Continue reading

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