Thursday, January 1, 2009

If you with patient ears attend

Current book: Midnight's Children
Pages read: 3 - 52

So, I'll begin with initial impressions. Coming into this one, I had no idea what it was about. I've read The Satanic Verses, so I'm familiar with Rushdie's style, although I'd forgotten his tendency to be all jumpy-aroundy (What? That's a perfectly valid literary term. You can look it up. All right, you can't look it up. Sue me.) and I'm not sure I like it. In this first couple of chapters he's reminding me of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who I'm actually incapable of reading. Really, I've tried One Hundred Years of Solitude three times - how many Jose Arcadia Buendias can one person deal with? "A gazillion" is apparently the rest of the world's answer, since everyone seems to love that book like his or her firstborn. Firstborn completely baffling and obnoxious magical realism, that is. But I digress.

Anyway, I didn't read the author's introduction, because I started it and he was giving me way too much backstory and spoiling the plot. Why do they do that? You're writing your introduction to your own book - do you not realize that if you say what happens you might ruin it for somebody? I hate how famous literature is exempt from spoilers. Just because the whole world knows the end of Romeo and Juliet doesn't mean you have to go around repeating it before every edition of the play. There's the off chance some sixteen-year-old has been completely oblivious, and think how fun it'll be for him or her. Ok, maybe not fun. Also, I guess Shakespeare kind of gives it away in the prologue. Bad example. (Also, I'm being horribly hypocritical, since this entire blog is kind of one giant spoiler. But it's my blog, and you know what you're getting yourself into. (You know into what you are getting yourself? Ew.)*) Point being that I just jumped right into the novel. I quite like the first-person narrator's voice, and I have to respect Rushdie for being able to get away with phrases like "occult tyrannies" without sounding pedantic. There's not a whole lot of story yet - we're getting the family history of the main character, who was born at midnight on the first day of India's independence. Hence, together, he and India are midnight's children, and we will, in theory, be watching him and India develop together (You might think I used the wrong pronoun there, but I didn't. Don't question me.). So, anyway, lots and lots of backstory, which is slow in developing, but interesting. We've gotten the history of our character's grandfather and are now working on his father. What interests me most is Rushdie's ability to use specificity of language to express himself exactly how he wants to, but in an extremely poetic fashion. He's almost like an engineer of language. Also, he keeps making me look up words. I sort of remembered what purdah meant, but not really. I enjoy it when authors make me look up words - unless they're being truly obnoxious about it, which does happen ::coughChinaMievillecough::.

Overall first impressions - it has potential to be good enough to overcome the annoying jumping around in time, subject, and space, but we'll see how the plot develops. I have faith in old Salman: he pulled through for me on The Satanic Verses, and, though this is an earlier work, I think he can do it here, too.

Also, there was a superfluous comma on page 23. Someone give me an editing job. Sheesh.

On an unrelated note, although a literary one, I finished rereading The Sparrow today, and I'd forgotten how completely amazing it is. And how it makes me cry like a little girl. It would definitely make my personal list of the 100 greatest novels.

*That's right. I used double parentheses. Did you have something to say?


  1. I love the way you write! This is going to be a very entertaining trip through your books with you!

  2. I agree with LoraM. You have a unique "voice". I'll have to think awhile to come up with the correct adjective/phrase to describe it.

  3. When do we see your list of 100? That sounds like a project for livejournal, eh?

  4. What here shall miss, your toil shall strive to mend! I'm not sure if I want to read all of your commentary, since I really do want to read a lot of the books on this list and shouldn't like to be spoiled for them. Is there any chance you could stick whatever book you're on in your Facebook profile, or something? I know, I know, I'm horribly demanding . . . .



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