Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Thoughts on Rushdie's STC

The first time I tried reading Salman Rushdie, I was still in school and I couldn’t get past the first few pages. The book was ‘Midnight’s Children’. I just finished my second attempt, and I’m glad to say I made it through the entire book. This time it was ‘Shalimar the Clown’, and though the first few pages were not as engaging as I would have liked it to be, by the time I reached the middle, I was engrossed.

Writing novels is truly an art – in my opinion, if it does not have a generous dose of creativity, you might as well be reading the paper - and Rushdie moves between modern politics and history with the ease and gracefulness of a tiger hunting its prey in the open fields of Africa. He lays bare the basic human emotions of love and hatred with words that are so lyrical and evocative, you can visualize them as he writes. I especially liked that his characters are well-etched – though each character has shades of grey, clearly, the sympathy of the reader is meant for one person only – Shalimar the Clown – and that person does get it. That is another rather difficult goal to achieve when you set about writing a novel, I would imagine. If your characters are not well fleshed-out, you lose track somewhere along the way and then the end is never exactly what you imagined it would be. Some would call that part of the beauty of writing as well. Perhaps, but I feel that though the writer is free to express himself however he or she wants, in a story, you have to be clear about your characters – you have to convey your thoughts in a way that the reader is not left wondering about the direction you are trying to take him or her in. Many writers make that mistake, but Rushdie did not get caught in that trap in 'Shalimar The Clown'.

I don’t want this to be a book report, so I’m not elaborating on the storyline (I don’t like the people who give out the ending of the movie or book before you’ve had a chance to watch or read it yourself!!), but it should suffice to say that with names as interesting as Shalimar, Kashmira, Boonyi and Maximilian, the story lived up to its characters. A story with a Mary or John could be boring, after all, but with names like these? He didn’t have a choice!

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