Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Midnight's Children

1981, 1995 Vintage Edition
Salman Rushdie
Midnight's Children
No American price listed, but AUS $12.95
Slightly worn paperback

I've never read Rushdie's infamous Satanic Verses, but there was a time when I was curious enough to buy two of his other books.  (The Moor's Last Sigh will be in 1995.)  I can't remember reading either of them more than once, and now I can see why, and also why I didn't get rid of this book before.  It's not a bad book, but it's not good either.  It really is a straight-down-the-middle average C.  (It won the Booker Prize, but you've probably guessed by now I don't have much respect for literary awards.)  There are times when there are lovely turns of phrase, and times when he's going on and on about snot.  In fact, Saleem's (the narrator's) sinuses are a major character!  And somehow Rushdie can throw away a whole thousand talented people (the title characters), giving them nothing much to do and yet acting as if they're closely linked to India's fate.  Even when he brings in quasi-incest, it's kind of boring.

I liked the early chapters most, the courtship of Saleem's grandparents, but then they got married and she turned into a fat shrew.  There's undeniable sexism throughout, with so many of the female characters being horrible people, without any reason.  (At least when the men are awful, we understand why.)

This book most reminded me of Tristam Shandy, in that there's a lot about noses and mutilations and family.  Saleem's sort of girlfriend Padma complains more than once that he's never going to get around to his own birth, although Rushdie isn't as circular a writer as Sterne.  He's also less funny, although there were times when I almost laughed.

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