Book Review: "Midnight's Children" by Salman Rushdie

July 22, 2008

This book nearly ruined me for all other books. Not from joy. Not from marvel. But sheer exhaustion. Its scope is so immense and foreign (to me, an ingoramus of Indian mid-century politics), its symbolism so constant and deep that instead of the thrill of discovery I turned furtive and avoided its clutches. I could only pound through a dozen pages in a sitting. Every sentence so dripping with meaning, every setting and object multi-dimensionally important. I have nothing bad to say about this book–it is a seminal masterwork–but did I enjoy it? Sadly, no.

Rushdie has done this to me before. Tempted me with such completeness of vision, led me into a labyrinthine tome that then wracked me for a fortnight. It happened in 2001 with “The Ground Beneath her Feet.” I thought this would be different. And now, as then, I feel that I am the failure. Why did the genius of this book beat me down?

Perhaps I feel I gave it short shrift, even though it took me more than two weeks to read–a veritable lifetime in my normal reading pace. This book deserves a seminar series, a dissertation, not just a dilletante’s shallow perusal. I hammered on my brain trying to put all of the symoblic pieces together, but I know, know, know I have fallen far, far short.

The book’s early settings in mountainous Kashmir were evocative and easy-reading enough to lull me into thinking I could deal with the rest of the book. But then: enter the fracas of Bombay, and then politics: my academic Achilles heel (OK, along with biz/economics) and one of the few things in the world that bores me to seizures.

In all, reading this book seemed like an artistic duty. An offering up to the shrine of Rushdie’s import and brilliance, but one of guilt, not joy.


LibraryThing Tags:

novel, fiction, india, booker prize, 2008readinglist, read, readin200

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