Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Would you prefer yellow spandex?

Current book: Midnight's Children
Pages read: 255-350

You'll no doubt be disappointed to hear, as I was to read, that the children of midnight have not yet banded together and created a legion of superheroes. (No spandex at all, really. Also no cloaked jet planes. Any book can benefit from some cloaked jet planes. Well, maybe not any book.) In fact, they seem oddly unimportant to the story, though there are yet whispers of them threading through the chapters and hinting at things to come. We're moving along pretty well through the political events of Indian history and Saleem's late childhood and early adolescence. He's reached puberty early and is developing a mature body and its accompanying impulses before he's ready, which is actually creating a nice parallel with India's development and subsequent conflicts with neighboring political powers.

In addition to that, though, Saleem has begun to blame himself for every bad thing that happens to the new state of India, including the death of Nehru, and frankly, I'm getting a little frustrated with his hubris. I mean, ok, I get that we're going for deeper symbolic meaning, here, but things are getting out-of-hand. You know when you have a friend who blames him or herself for everything, no matter how blameless he or she is? After a while you get pretty damn tired of hearing "Sorry, it's all my fault," and the like. Take it a step further, and you might even get angry that he or she is appropriating situations that have nothing to do with him or her. (This makes perfect sense to me and has happened on several occasions, but maybe I'm just a horrible person. ) That's what's happening to me with Saleem. I understand he's connected fatefully to India through the whole midnight thing, but what entitles him to tie every aspect of his life to the history of the country? Why does he get to be responsible for Nehru's death? I'm beginning to want to categorize him as just crazy, needy, and obsessive. Maybe Rushdie's point, though, is that anyone's life is tied to that of their country, regardless of fateful birth-hour - that everyone, in fact, can serve as an allegory for their larger community and even humanity as a whole. (Deep, huh? Sometimes I astonish even myself.)

On a more plot-related note, Saleem's family spent some time in Pakistan, returned to India, and decided to leave again, though not before Saleem got surgery on his sinuses that removed his power to read thoughts. (Note to self: do not get your tonsils out. They may be responsible for any number of your uncanny and brilliant talents.) So, now, according to our hero, anyway, he's exiled both from his magical birthright and his home country. Also, his sister, it has been hinted, is about to become a huge singing star in Pakistan. None of this is really clearing up my need for perfect allegorical parallels with the country of India, but it's pretty interesting. I don't feel like I'm slogging through the prose, which is a nice change, and the plot is resisting the tendency to leap about in time.

New word that I learned from Rushdie today: tergiversatory - tending to repeatedly change one's attitude and opinions toward a cause. (Will I ever use that word in conversation? Only if I want to be mocked mercilessly for my overdeveloped vocabulary. Then again, I'm used to it.)

Also, Rushdie, don't think I didn't notice that you put your own last name into a list of people in that last chapter. I noticed. No, you are not cool.

1 comment:

  1. Claire, stop. You're starting to make me want to read this book.



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