The Satanic Verses: A Better Book than I am Reader


Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses is the first book to fall victim to the time pressures of reading 100 books in a year. In my rush to read the book, and cross it off the list, and move on, I didn’t (at all) do justice to the richness of the text and found myself trying to skim sections that demanded close reading. I realize now that I will not (again) risk missing out on a brilliant book for the sake of a self-imposed list-making exercise. So be warned, there may be other two week hiatuses while I make my way through long and/or dense works.

So with the caveat that my sometimes confusion with plot sequencing probably had more to do with my inattention than with the book itself, I liked the book (I probably ought to love it, but again, my failure as a reader this go around). I enjoyed the interwoven narrative voices, temporal scopes and thematic questions: what does it mean to be a coherent and contiguous self? are relationships principally of convenience or of care? how much, or can we, take advantage of those we love and have them still love us? what does God have to do with any of these questions? That said, I didn’t necessarily enjoy the uneven introduction of metafictional techniques (it is only in the last, say, 100 pages that the ‘author’ begins to comment on these thematic questions and interrogate the action of his characters). Okay, so it’s a very small complaint.

The magic realism of Allie’s climb of Everest and the butterfly pilgrimage that then reverberate in the realist scenes are striking not for the “magic” (ooo aaa…. magical things integrated into reality) but for the reminder that magic isn’t someone surviving a fall from 30 000 feet, or the parting of an ocean, the real magic – the stuff that really ought to blow our minds – is the idea that a father can love a son after thirty years of not speaking; or that forgiveness is possible; or that a single person can hold within themselves competing feelings of love and hate and not be destroyed by those competing impulses. The magic, in other words, is reality.


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Filed under 100 Books of 2011, Book I'll Forget I Read, British literature, Fiction, Prize Winner

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