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I enjoyed this. As opposed to *enduring* it, which is usually the case with Salman Rushdie's books. The only other one I really enjoyed was Shame, which made me laugh. I must confess that I've managed to avoid reading Midnight's Children - that has now joined the ranks of those books I've bought second hand and shelved, never to read (barring my becoming bedridden and bored). His last novel left me cold, but this one I enjoyed. But my enjoyment of his flowing style and bizarre juxtaposition of words was mixed with exasperation at his incessant name-dropping. At times this book seemed like a literary version of Madonna's Vogue. If the Guinness Book of Records had a record for the most real-life people named in one novel then this would surely be the new record-holder. For example, one paragraph begins: "Patrick Kluivert scored for the Dutch" and ends: "Ask anyone. Ask Idi Amin." And Rushdie also seems to have one eye on the American market: ' "Jack Rhinehart" was a usefully non-black specific name, carrying none of the ghetto connotations of a Tupac, Vondie, Anfernee, or Rah'schied (these were days of innovative naming and creative orthography in the African-American community). In the Palaces, people were not named in this way. Men were not called Biggie or Hammer or Shaquille or Snoop or Dre, nor were women named Pepa or LeftEye or D:Neece. ' TOP GAMBLING OPPORTUNITY: Here's a game for any number of players. Each player makes a list of, say, ten celebrities who were 'current' in the year 2000. Then everyone listens to the audio book, crossing off anyone on their list who gets a mention. The first person to cross off everyone on their card shouts: BANZAI! Why does Rushdie feel the need to splatter the zeitgeist over every page? What will people make of his references to Brad, Meg, Julia, Tom, Puffy, 'N'SYNC,
Naomi, Robbie and Buffy in fifty years time? And who the hell are Sarraute, Gurumayi or Ivana Opalberg-Speedvogel when they're at home? Even so, I did enjoy it. Some readers have complained that the secondary characters aren't really explored, but people who analyze stuff are never satisfied, and always think they know best. Which reminds me... I suppose you want to know about the plot, don't you? Oh, I don't know, one day it's "too many facts" or "too much plot, and not enough opinion", next day it's: "nice opinion, but I'd like to know more about the plot". Well, tough. You'll get what you're given, and like it or lump it. Let's face it, this is a literary novel, so what plot there is, is spread thinly. It's set in New York during "the first hot season of the third millennium", where we find Professor Malik Solanka, who has suddenly upped sticks and left his wife, young son and London home, in the middle of the night. He had already quit the halls of academe (Oxford University to be precise) to make what becomes a cult TV series about the history of philosophy, using 'egghead dolls' to represent 'Great Minds' of history, and starring 'Little Brain' - a female time-travelling doll who interrogates them about their beliefs. But, to his chagrin, when the show is adopted by mainstream television, it is (inevitably) dumbed down. His beloved creation Little Brain becomes to philosophy, what Lara Croft is to archæology. 'Day by day she had become a creature of the entertainment multiverse.' Later in the book, his foray into the world of science fiction becomes equally successful. So much so, that on the other side of the world, revolutionaries wear masks depicting his characters as they take control of a little island nation called Lilliput-Blefuscu. There is love interest, of course. You can'
t have a mid-life adventure story without dollybirds. And dolls they are too: A Little Brain fan called Mila Milo, who connects him with the techy compuer geeks who turn his sci-fi tale into an online phenomenon; and Neela, whose beauty literally turns heads (and men to clutzes) and on whom his sci-fi heroine is based. There is also a murder mystery element, which inevitably (this is a literary novel, remember) ends anticlimactically. Someone is going around bashing rich girls over the head with a lump of concrete, and Professor Solanka is alarmed at reports of a man in a Panama hat being seen in the vicinty of the crimes - because he wears just such a hat. And because the night he left his wife he'd found himself standing over her with a knife in his hand... Why is he so full of fury inside, and who or what is he running away from? ' Life is fury, he'd thought. Fury - sexual, Oedipal, political, magical, brutal - drives us to our finest heights and coarsest depths. Out of *furia* comes creation, inspiration, originality, passion, but also violence, pain pure unafraid destruction, the giving and receiving of blows from which we never recover. ' I have to say that I found Professor Solanka about as expressive and animated a character as Sven Goran Eriksson. (Drat, I'm doing it now! Come to think of it they really do seem a lot alike. It just goes to show... it really is the quiet ones you have to watch!) But I didn't mind because there were no dull bits, I was continually amused by his creative wordplay, it may not be typical Rushdie. but it is one of his most accessible books. I had Fury for a long time before I read it, but not shelved away though - I stood it in the corner of my room so that I could gaze at that stunning photograph on the cover of the Empire State Building in a thunderstorm. Ironically, of course, the Manhattan Skyline was irrevocably devastated by an outburst of fury just aft
er this book was published. ¶ Hardback: £16.99 ¶ ISBN: 0224061593 ¶ pp 261 ¶ ¶ Paperback: £6.99 ¶ ISBN: 0099421860 ¶ pp 272 ¶ 4th July 2002 ¶ ___________________________________________________________ ¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯
FURY is a novel which is difficult to place in relation to Rushdie’s other works. It does not stand so far outside the body of the rest of his work as does his first novel GRIMUS [a sci-fi fantasy novel with an Amerindian, rather than ‘India-Indian’, protagonist], yet it does not seem to quite belong with MIDNIGHT’S CHILDREN or even his most recent preceding novel THE GROUND BENEATH HER FEET. On the prosaic side, it is much shorter than his other novels (a mere 279 pages); however, it also simply has a different feel from his other books (see more on this below). One practical effect of FURY’s brevity (compared to his other works) is that we do not get to see the entirety of all of the characters. There are some characters, who though very vividly invoked, make but brief appearances in the novel (much more characteristic of a Mike Leigh film than a Rushdie novel). I do not think FURY is quite the equal of MIDNIGHT’S CHILDREN, but their differences make them hard to compare (and, my rating shows that I still think FURY an excellent book). That said, I would still rather recommend MIDNIGHT’S CHILDREN or THE MOOR’S LAST SIGH to a reader who wants an introduction into Rushdie’s work. Despite being set in New York (and despite some reviews to the contrary), FURY is not an ‘American’ novel. It is a novel by an author who, like FURY’s hero Prof. Malik Solanka, was bred in Bombay, educated in London and recently taken up residence in the USA. Besides, it does not seem particularly useful to attempt to classify Rushdie’s books by such national adjectives, at least no more than to see Joyce’s FINNEGAN’S WAKE as an ‘Irish’ novel. FURY involves America, India and England (as well as Fiji, under the Swiftian pseudonym ‘Lilliput-Blefuscu’). The story itself is part murder-mystery, part romance, part sci-fi, part political allegory—it is a bit
ter satire of the ‘money-mad burg’ of New York and black comedy about human nature in general (thus, again, not really centred on America in particular). While dark and perhaps disturbing in parts, these elements are mixed with a moving love-story and the novel is filled with many moments of lighter humour. As in his previous novel THE GROUND BENEATH HER FEET, Rushdie examines the relation of the artist to his creation and his audience. Solanka is a Cambridge-philosopher-turned-dollmaker who has unwittingly (and unwillingly) created a pop-culture phenomenon that represents almost everything he despises about modern culture. His pop-culture heroine, a BBC-TV star named Little Brain, originates as an intelligent, if irreverent, girl-doll who travels through time to have discussions with people like Galileo. However, Solanka loses control over Little Brain and the TV programme becomes internationalised, low-brow, mindless drivel (in Solanka’s opinion at least). The title refers to the somewhat inexplicable fury (part of it seems to stem from the ‘Little Brain saga’) of the protagonist, who at one point in time finds himself standing over his sleeping wife and son with a kitchen knife and at another point suspects himself of being the serial killer (in a sort Jekell-Hyde fashion) murdering women in NYC with a block of concrete. It is this fury which causes him to flee London, without a word of explanation to his family, for New York, seeking to ‘define’ himself—or, rather, erase himself: Eat me, America, he prays, and give me peace. But the fury is not just that of the protagonist, but of almost everyone in the novel: Muslim taxi-drivers curse mindlessly at the other traffic in Urdu. Solanka’s black friend Jack Rhinehart turns from being one the harshest critics of rich WASPish Americans (one kind of ‘racial’ fury) to trying to join their ‘club’ (and experiences another kin
d of ‘racial’ fury-frustration at not being fully ‘admitted’). It also concerns the ‘political’ fury of one of the female protagonists, Neela Mahendra, at the treatment of Indian ‘Lilliputians’ by the indigenous ‘Lilliput-Blefuscians’. Also, the Greek Furies themselves put in a sort of appearance at one point. Having left his family and retreated into the anonymity of New York (a strange kind of modern sanyasi-behaviour?), the first part of the novel partly concerns his relationship with Mila Milo, a young Slavic-American girl who is a sort of fashion-chic-guru to a consortium of young computer-technology wizards. This relationship has reverberations of Lolita (due to the age difference and implications about Mila’s father) as well as Pygmalion (as Mila reveres and emulates Little Brain, particularly her pop-culture manifestation). Mila is key to the latter development of Solanka’s new creation: an internet sci-fi saga about a cyberneticist whose android-creations (like Solanka’s Little Brain doll) eventually no longer obey his wishes (this mini-story about the relation between human and androids is also reminiscent of some of the issues about ‘humanness’ raised in Philip K Dick’s DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP? [and the film BLADERUNNER, derived from that novel] ). The main female protagonist in the novel, the one who pulls Solanka out of his fury and despair, is the ethereal, apsara-like, literally traffic-stopping Indian beauty (or, rather, Indo-Lilliputian beauty), Neela Mahendra. This character is transparently Rushdie’s current girl-friend, the South Indian model/actress/cookery-book-writer Padma Lakshmi [see my review of her book EASY EXOTIC], down to the herringbone scar on her right arm. This and other aspects of the novel make one feel it to be perhaps the most autobiographical of Rushdie’s novels, though not in any unpleasan
t way. The latter part of the novel is primarily focussed on Solanka & Neela’s relationship and Neela’s part in the revolutionary activities in Lilliput-Blefuscu [read Fiji]. One of the striking differences between FURY and Rushdie’s previous novels is the lack of what is often called ‘magic realism’. There is nothing akin to the telepathic or other extra-ordinary abilities of the Midnight’s Children in FURY (even Neela’s ability to stop traffic Rushdie claims—and I don’t doubt it—is true of her model Padma). The closest FURY comes to that sort of Rushdiesque touch of the not-quite-natural is the blending which occurs between Solanka’s sci-fi internet saga about androids who revolt against their maker and the uprising of the Indo-Lillputians who start wearing masks based on the some of the android characters in Solanka’s e[lectronic]-epic. My opinion of FURY is that it is outstanding, like all of Rushdie’s novels, even if it is very different from his normal fare. Again, I would recommend some of his earlier novels to those unfamiliar with Rushdie, but Rushdie-fans definitely should not miss FURY. Also, as some other reviewers have observed, FURY takes on a new relevance in the aftermath of the 11 Sep. events (the fury that incited them, as well as the fury they have provoked).