Oct/Nov 2001 Book Reviews


Salman Rushdie
Jonathan Cape, Random House (August 2001) 259 pages
ISBN: 0 224 06159 3

reviewed by Ann Skea

Truly, Salman Rushdie is the Shah of Blah and the King of Lists. He is as imaginative, fluent, topical and clever as ever, and the Sea of Stories has not yet run dry but it is polluted by this sick old Earth, and this story has lost the freshness and balance which made Midnight's Children and Haroun and The Sea of Stories such a delight.

Perhaps, like Malik Solanka, who is the main character in Fury, Rushdie is under attack by the Eumenides, "The Kindly Ones." It is unwise to mention them by name or they may vent their fury on us, so Solanka/Rushdie tells us. But he is unwise and, in any case, the wrath of those Ancient Greek goddesses has already fallen on him.

Malik, it seems, does share much with Rushdie. He is Indian (from Bombay). He has just moved from England to America. He has a young son living with his divorced first wife. And he is a brilliantly imaginative creator. Malik creates dolls and he also creates stories--"back stories"--which give his dolls their history and character. His best-known creation is a smart doll called, ironically, "Little Brain," and she takes over his life and fuels the furies which attack him, just as Rushdie's creations often have.

But Malik is not Rushdie. His story is a fantasy set in a cynical, witty, caricature of our world which is peopled by dolls. That is not to say that we do not recognize the places, the events and the people. We have Gush and Bore, Clint and Monica "Minnie Mouth," Meg and Dennis, Kieslowski films, raving cab-drivers, gruesome murders (Malik thinks for a while that he may be the murderer), sado-masochism, incest and paedophilia. New York is as real as our media-fuelled perceptions of it ever are. Mila, the ultra-mod, slick chick who takes Malik as her latest make-over project, is as realistic as our media-led perceptions of the modern superwoman can be. And Neela, the stunning beauty who unexpectedly falls in love with Malik (and he with her) is pure male fantasy. The havoc she daily causes by her beauty is as farcical and fatuous as may be found in any American sit-com. Truly, the world of Fury is a modern, media-moulded world just like ours.

I wonder, too, what has caused this sudden penchant amongst novelists for slipping science fiction fantasies into their novels. Margaret Attwood did it in The Blind Assassin. Now Rushdie tries his hand at it in Fury. Maybe our world has become so fantastic that this is just post-modern realism. I can't say that I care much for it but that, as they say, is my own problem.

Malik/Rushdie talks in riffs and the pace of the novel is furious. So, too, is the pace of the characters' lives. There is no happy ending. But that's life for you anyway: and maybe humour is the only defence. However, I wish that fantasy would sometimes take me away from real life into something calm and beautiful. Just for a change. And I wish that Rushdie would shake off the Furies, return to the Dull Lake and drink the warm, healing Story Waters again. Just for a while.


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