Author: Salman Rushdie
Published: 2001 (Modern Library)
Did you guys know Salman Rushdie is funny? I sure as hell didn’t. But he is!
This is a lot like Humbolt’s Gift in that it’s the downward-y spiral of a rich guy with an ex-wife and a weird way of earning a living in an iconic American city. Malik Solanka, however, carries the extra weight of being a British ex-pat who gave up an academic life to make dolls, one of which is called
Little Brain and becomes a cultural icon after starring in BBC history shows.
Also, murder. Murder was in Humbolt, too, but only on the fringe. Solanka here winds up into blinding rages that he can’t control or remember and when he hears about young women getting strangled around town, he’s really scared that it’s him. It’s not (oops, spoiler), but Rushdie does a great job of using third person limited perspective to hint at unreliable narration that slowly unravels tension until it’s gone and some frat boys did it. You’re as relieved as Solanka is when it’s proven that he didn’t do it.
The murder thing is a big surprise – but it makes surprising sense when you think about how Solanka’s let his life go out of control and when Rushdie incrementally reveals just how much has gone to shit for him.
Solanka goes on philosophical monologues about the state of America too but they’re hilarious because A. he doesn’t have the indignation that a native has that all this shit is actually affecting him, and B. he uses old arguments to back up pop culture rants instead of the other way around.
So anyway eventually through a nymphet wanna-be and a new doll he gets his creative groove back and starts another story phenomenon through a constantly evolving web-based sci fi story-building world, and he gets to reunite with his son. Earned happy endings? Sure!
Again, this is a Book I Picked Up In Place of the Famous One I Actually Wanted to Read, aka The Satanic Verses for Rushdie. I believe I will pick that up and see what all the fuss is about. Eventually. (You guys, I fell off the no-new-to-me-books wagon so hard during the Friends of the Library’s book sale. My car is now unofficially a bookmobile.)