Tuesday, August 25, 2009

233. The Ground Beneath Her Feet – Salmon Rushdie

July 2009
History: Published in 2000, it is a variation on the Orpheus/Eurydice myth with rock music replacing Orpheus' lyre. The myth works as a red thread from which the author sometimes strays, but to which he attaches an endless series of references. Orpheus’wife Eurydice, while fleeing from Aristaeus (son of Apollo), ran into a nest of snakes which bit her fatally on her heel. Distraught, Orpheus played such sad songs and sang so mournfully that all the nymphs and gods wept. On their advice, Orpheus traveled to the underworld and by his music softened the hearts of Hades and Persephone (he was the only person ever to do so), who agreed to allow Eurydice to return with him to earth on one condition: he should walk in front of her and not look back until they both had reached the upper world. He set off with Eurydice following and in his anxiety as soon as he reached the upper world he turned to look at her, forgetting that both needed to be in the upper world, and she vanished for the second time, but now forever. Since his love was not "true"--he did not want to die for love--he was actually punished by the gods, first by giving him only the apparition of his former wife in the underworld, and then by being killed by women.
Plot: The lovers of the novel are Ormus Cama, the founder of the most popular rock group around, and Vina Apsara, the sexually charged lead singer of the group. Narrated by a mutual friend and photographer Rai Merchant, the novel opens with Apsara’s disappearance during a terrifying earthquake in 1989.
After Apsara vanishes in the wake of the earthquake, Rushdie takes the reader back in time in order to chronicle the bizarre and twisted lives of Cama and Apsara and those who also inhabited their world. From India to New York and numerous places in between, the novel is a very bumpy roller-coaster ride. There is no shortage of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. There is also no shortage of mythology, Americana, literary doodling, and religious fervor. As the ever-observant narrator, Merchant is the perfect stand-in for Rushdie. Merchant can seemingly bend with the wind and also stand outside of events to better understand what has transpired. Moving forward to 1995, Apsara somehow reappears and she and Cama are reunited. However, she continues to get together with Rai, who in turn holds deep affection for her. After her death, both men mourn pitifully, but this is not the end of the novel! After visiting several Vina look alike shows for several years, Ormus begins stalking a very young Vina impersonator that actually does look like Vina. And even gets cameras in her dressing room and apartment. He shows the secret films to Rai, who gets real excited, and goes down to meet this woman, who actually falls in love with Rai, more than twice her age but never mind.
In the end, Ormus gets shot, like John Lennon, and Rai gets to marry the Vina impersonator, who really doesn’t mind that she is an object, and she is also a rock star.
Review: This book is about a woman named Vina, whose name is mentioned about thirty times on every page. The story is narrated by Rai, who is in love with her. She is a rock star, and no matter how many times Rushdie wants to write out her name, she is still seen to me as an unintelligent and uninteresting woman. Her husband, Ormus, is the most interesting character in the story, probably because the character is borrowed from real life, John Lennon and/or Elvis Presley. At the end of the novel, again, Rai, a middle aged photographer gets to sleep with a really young sex pot, and she doesn’t mind being an object. What an uninteresting plot, character sketch this book is!. I like a lot of his play on words, and I do like his ability to use words, but his character development is so bad.
I am trying to like Rushdie, but, like Jane Austen, I am thinking I do not.
Opening Line: “On St. Valentines Day, 1989, the last day of her life, the legendary popular singer Vina Apsara woke sobbing from a dream of human sacrifice in which she had been the intended victim.”
Closing Line: “I thought they were supposed to be dead, but in real life they’re just going to go on singing.” ”
Quotes: “We three kings of disorient were.”
“She’s spitting out of her mouth the things he needs to say to her.”
Rating: Okay

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