Beautiful clown

Amazon on both sides of the pond has posted cover concepts for the new novels by Salman Rushdie and Zadie Smith (thanks, Sapna). Rushdie fires first on Sep. 5, Smith the following week. As anyone in mass marketing will tell you, new products crowd the first weeks of autumn. Books and babies are best launched after the summer doldrums.

Previous posts: 1, 2

31 thoughts on “Beautiful clown

  1. I dont know if this is just the blurb from the publisher or a breathless early review of Rushdie’s new work (It doesnt carry a byline) From the Book Standard

    SHALIMAR THE CLOWN Random House May 15, 2005 By Salman Rushdie Vintage Rushdie, in a sprawling story ripped from today’s—and, undoubtedly, tomorrow’s—headlines. A presumably political assassination that’s in fact deeply “personal,” the separate histories of the disputed territories of Strasbourg and Kashmir, and the classical Indian epic Ramayana are all ingeniously conflated and reimagined in Rushdie’s dazzling ninth novel. It begins in 1993, when former U.S. Ambassador to India Maximilian Ophuls is murdered and nearly beheaded outside his Los Angeles home by his Muslim driver, who, the world will soon learn, is Kashmiri native Noman Sher Noman, a former traveling player and amateur acrobat known as “Shalimar the Clown.” In a masterly deployment of interconnected narratives spanning six decades, we learn of Noman’s youthful marriage to beautiful dancer “Boonyi” Kaul and her calculated dalliance with visiting diplomat Ophuls, who takes her (willingly) away, fathers her daughter and sorrowfully permits her disgraced return to Kashmir as Boonyi. Now grossly fat and guilt-ridden, she anticipates either her husband’s forgiveness or his righteous vengeance. One parallel story is an extended flashback detailing Max’s youth in war-torn Strasbourg, experiences as a Resistance hero and rise in the world of diplomacy. Other narratives recount Kashmir’s ongoing victimization by Pakistan and India (notably, stiff-necked military leader Hammirdev Kachhawa and fanatical “iron mullah” Bulbul Fakh). Rushdie introduces numerous vivid characters variously related to Noman and Boonyi and describes Noman’s training as a terrorist within an increasingly violent Kashmiri “liberation front.” The pattern of the Ramayana—which recalls a hero’s “war” waged against the “demon” who steals his beloved—is ingeniously reiterated when “Shalimar” fulfills his mission, eludes the sentence pronounced on him and confronts the woman who may or may not become his final victim. That the threat he incarnates will never go away, and we do not know our story’s ending, is unforgettably dramatized, in a magical-realist masterpiece that equals, and arguably surpasses, the achievements of Midnight’s Children, Shame and The Moor’s Last Sigh. The Swedes won’t dare to offend Islam by giving Rushdie the Nobel Prize he deserves more than any other living writer. Injustice rules.
  2. No other living writer deserves the Nobel more?

    Hmm Updike? Alice Munro? I doubt they will give the Nobel to any Indian so soon after Naipaul.

    My front runner for an Indian who might win a Nobel is Amitav Ghosh. Not for the work he has done so far, but for the work he might do.

  3. tef

    I reckon there is something of The Emperor’s New Clothes with Salman Rushdie. I find his writing a little pompous and out of control. But that’s just my personal opinion.

  4. Punjabi Boy,

    Oh, I thought the last sentence about him deserving the Nobel was by you.

    And yes I think his writing is “masturbatory” too.

    But I recall Haroon and the Sea of Stories sneaking onto someone’s list of 100 best novels of all time. I think it was an English Newspaper. Weird. I read it, don’t remember disliking it, but it didn’t make that much of an impression either.

  5. tef

    I think he has been cut a lot of slack because of the fatwa. I can understand that. But I just dont rate him. His last novel Fury was atrocious. One reviewer said that it was a novel that ‘exhausted negative superlatives’. The Ground Beneath Her Feet was perhaps the most bloated and pompous book I have ever read.

  6. These things are matters of personal taste, but for me, after Rushdie, no other novelist measures up. I wander the fiction stacks looking for someone half as good. The Ground Beneath Her Feet was an epic love story, tremendous. He had a string of consistently excellent novels: Shame, Midnight’s Children, The Ground Beneath Her Feet, The Satanic Verses, The Moor’s Last Sigh. Fury had amateurish false notes, as if the master had lost concentration; his first, Grimus, thankfully remains obscure.

    It comes down to the level of intensity, wordplay and witty aside you want and can handle.

  7. Manish,

    Yes I guess it comes down to preference. I have nothing against wordplay, but I prefer Nabokov’s. Rushdie was a copywriter and he has never gotten over that.

    Btw, I have only read Midnight, Satanic & Haroon. And I’ve only read the reviews of the rest.

  8. I love Nabokov as well, but he’s more precise and spare. Rushdie is a maximalist, a baroque symphony.

    Of the remaining books, you’re really missing out if you don’t read The Moor’s Last Sigh.

  9. I need to take indigestion tablets after reading a few pages of Rushdie.

  10. Have to agree with Manish on this. All other writers seem to pale into insignificance when compared to Rushdie.

    Quoting the great one:

    “When a reader falls in love with a book it leaves its essence inside him, like radioactive fallout in an arable field, and after that there are certain crops that will no longer grow in him, while other, stranger, more fantastic growths may occasionally be produced”

  11. I can understand why people have a preference for Rushdie’s style of writing. Thats fine, its your taste, and you like it. OK. Everything is subjective at the end of the day.

    What I dont get is the kind of hyperbole of praise for him which his fans seem afflicted by, the statements that he towers over all other writers of his generation, that ‘all other writers seem to pale into insignificance when compared to Rushdie’.

    I dont understand where this exagerration and assertion of him as some kind of writing God from the top of Mount Olympia comes from, this hyperbole, this pompous need to assert his unique brilliance, a brilliance that outshines and renders dull and neutral all other writers. It’s absolute nonsense. Then I realise, it’s the same sort of overstuffed hysteria and noise and hype of his novels.

    I cant deny it if you like Rushdie, and you can make a case for being one of the best writers around if you like, but please, enough of the exagerrations and hubris about him being some kind of Zeus of the Novel who leaves all others shriveling in his wake.

  12. PB: I read most of your comments with great interest. Please tell Sepia readers a little about yourself. British, Punjabi and full of beans. Tell us more.

  13. worry not Punjabi ladka…i’ve never been able to get through a rushdie work. something, anything always seems more entertaining a diversion. i’ll start doing laundry and find THAT more satisfying, which is truly sad. i hardly ever disagree with the almighty Vij, but when i do, i apparently really do.

    when i want to get lost in lush imagery and pathos, i reacquaint myself with that radical pinko Roy. or the much maligned Vikram Seth who inspired my omnipresent handle. i even like jhumpa more (since i’ve made it through exactly 1.33 of her books and not a whole rushdie yet).

    the moor’s last sigh is something i want to try and read at some point, but the ground beneath her feet didn’t affect me at all. to each their own. i feel the same way about metallica, though people seem to find THEM genius.

    i hear you on the fawning praise, though. oy. we get it already. he’s good.

  14. I was being serious… all those grand opinions and fabulous rants merit some background information. If you won’t oblige, you won’t oblige.

  15. ANNA

    In my humble opinion the funniest and best comment on Rushdie’s writing was uttered by VS Naipaul. At a reading once when he was asked for some comments about Satanic Verses and the Ayatollah’s death sentence on his Holiness Salman, Naipaul giggled and said;

    ‘It’s just an extreme form of literary criticism’


  16. Pondering

    I was being serious too! E-mail me your questions, I work for a top secret underground bhangra organisation and dont want to blow my cover:

    Any sexy girls can e-mail me too, but if you dont like bhangra, dont bother.

  17. ANNA

    What if the reality is even hotter?

    You should hear my English accent, its so amazing.

  18. I have to agree with Manish on this one, but Fury really did SUCK. What an overblown hand-job attempt to suck up to his supermodel wife…

    But you can’t mess with The Ground Beneath Her Feet and Midnight’s Children, IMO.

  19. You should hear my English accent, its so amazing.

    PB, the women you’re flirting with look like Elisha Cuthbert, Ivana Milicevic and January Jones. Just come out to Wisconsin and stop by the first bar you see ;)

    What I dont get is the kind of hyperbole of praise for him which his fans seem afflicted by…

    I was at a large bookstore in Lincoln Center the other day and asked the guy at the info desk if he could recommend someone who writes like Rushdie.

    The guy looked at me and said, ‘No one writes like Rushdie.’

    Damn hyperbolic Rushdie fans!

  20. But you can’t mess with The Ground Beneath Her Feet and Midnight’s Children, IMO

    I couldn’t get through Midnight’s Children. It’s so dense and I have self-diagnosed ADD (it took me about 623423 tries to get through To The Lighthouse and I think I didn’t catch about half of 100 years of solitude).

    I’ll stick with Zadie Smith for now…less intricate, but more warm feelings. But one day, when I get treatment, watch out–I’m going to mow through the Rushdie oeuvre the way I destroyed The Powerbroker.

    Btw, if anyone’s an editor here, I strongly urge you to take a knife to the latter. It could be 500 pages shorter and you would be doing a public service.

  21. The “blurb” that Punjabi Boy posted to start off these comments is a review from Kirkus. (no byline) It’s a star and anyone in publishing knows what that means. (Hint: Good for sales.)

  22. We must thank mr. Rushdie for letiing us know that the gods were not dead with Shakespeare. He is, simply, the best writer in English language and, probably, a reencarnation of the magician of Stratford upon Avon. From Madrid, dying of hunger for reading this new book of Master Rushdie, let me recommend to everybody his masterpiece, the booker of bookers: a new Bible for Literature lovers.

  23. Note: Requests for celebrities’ contact info; racist, abusive, content-free or commercial comments; and long, obscure rants will be deleted. Unless theyÂ’re funny. ItÂ’s all good then.

    If I’d get Rushdie’s contact info I would forget to go to the church on sundays.

  24. The Nobel Prize is under suspicion while Salman Rushdie doesn’t get it. NOBEL PRIZE FOR RUSHDIE!!!!!!! Are the terrorists so strong? Are we going to allow that he won’t recieve it? Do u believe in God, I believe in Rushdie. Thank u mr. Rushdie.