Friday, May 14, 2010

Gunpowder, treason, and plot

Current book: The Satanic Verses
Pages read: 259 - 315

Ok. Actual update. Sorry about the two-day absence, though I'm sure you've grown accustomed to the lack of substance on Wednesdays. Anyway, point is, I'm here now.

There's not that much to report in the book, actually. Saladin lives in the attic of Sufyan's house for a while, growing more friendly (though not romantically so) with Sufyan's daughters, especially Mishal. Mishal starts dating a friend of Joshi's, Hanif, which is technically illegal since she's only 17, and certainly objectionable to her parents, who end up throwing her out when they discover it. At the time she's thrown out, Hind decides that it's time Saladin, who has only grown more monstrous during his stay, also leaves. There have been rumors about him in the neighborhood, and, combined with the growing racial tensions of 80s London, things are pretty volatile for him. Mishal spirits him to a friend's club, where, lying on the floor trying to sleep and breathing brimstone, he realizes that all of his problems are Gibreel's fault. He has a temper tantrum and tears the place up, and when Mishal and her friend return, they find that he's a normal human again. It seems the release of rage removed all his satanic attributes.

Gibreel, in the meantime, is living with Allie Cone and being pampered day and night. They have sex a lot. Um. That's really all.

Thatcher's England is really the central part of this section of the narrative. Rushdie clearly sees the tightening of immigration policy and the state-sponsored nationalistic conservatism of the Thatcher administration as a threat to the freedom of Great Britain. The fact that the tensions in the neighborhood that Saladin's staying in are due largely to conflicts with the police, rather than with criminal organizations or other civilian factions is pretty good evidence for that. Also, the fact that, though the rumors of some kind of devil in the neighborhood have people nervous, those people end up embracing the devil as a symbol of their unity is quite telling. Since everyone thinks they're Satan-worshipers and witch doctors anyway, why not become them, or at least use Satan as a symbol of their identity? When there's nothing to fulfill but negative expectations, why not go ahead and do it?

Anyway, it's interesting to look at the Thatcher influence from an historical perspective and go, "Indeed. That would have been worrisome. Fortunately, it eased rather than escalating." Thatcher's administration in the U.K. produced some top-quality rebellious literature. Both this and V for Vendetta are clearly a reaction to it, and they're both important contributions to the literary world. I guess I appreciate her for that, if nothing else.

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