Meetings, Purchases, Pleasures

William Deresiewicz in The Nation:

1219940371largeLike a peddler just arrived in town, or a traveler come from foreign shores, Salman Rushdie spreads before us his magic carpet of stories. Rushdie has been many things–political novelist, national epicist, probing essayist, free-speech icon out of force of circumstance–but he has always been, first and last, a storyteller. As Conrad sought to return to fiction the immediacy of the sailor’s tale–one man entertaining his mates over claret and cigars–so Rushdie seeks to reanimate the printed page with the exuberance and exoticism of legend and fable, fairy tale and myth: the province of the wanderer, the yarn spinner, the bard. More than Ulysses or The Tin Drum, his most persistent models have been the Thousand and One Nights and the Hindu epics, The Wizard of Oz and Bollywood. He doesn’t want to be Joyce; he wants to be Scheherazade. His greatest works engage the tragedies of modern history through the most audaciously archaic of narrative devices. Midnight’s Children hinges on the switching of two babies in the cradle; The Satanic Verses features flying carpets and Ovidian metamorphoses.

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