Fury, by Salman Rushdie (2001)

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Arts
May 1st, 2003 • 4:40 pm

Every now and then, I feel a pinch of guilt because I read so few literary works by contemporary writers, and I make a conscious effort to purchase something by a well-known and acclaimed author, just to make sure I am not missing anything.

In this case, I hadn’t read anything by Salman Rushdie. I only knew about him because of the fatwa following the publication of Satanic Verses. A few months ago, I found a reasonably priced paperback copy of his latest, entitled Fury. (My incongruous zeal is not strong enough to justify the purchase of an overpriced hardcover edition. There is a LIMIT to how far I am willing to go to try and be proven wrong.)

The back page of the paperback edition is, of course, full of customary praise from various respectable journalists and reviewers. “A New York Times Notable Book.” A “profoundly, ecstatically affirmative work of fiction.” etc. etc.

Although it’s not very long, it took me a while to finish this book. Simply put, I really had to force myself. There is nothing compelling about it. Nothing insightful. Nothing funny. Nothing even remotely beautiful.

The “child abuse” thread that surfaces in the last part of the book comes out of nowhere to EXPLAIN the “fury” of the main character. But there is nothing in the book until then that suggests that Salman Rushdie has any insights about what child abuse really is and how it affects its victims. It is as if Rushdie had just decided that child abuse was a “trendy” theme and that he had to use it in his book, one way or another.

The worst aspect of the book, however, is the style. Some lines are just too hard to stomach. Take this sentence where Rushdie tries to evoke the extraordinary beauty of “the most beautiful woman” that the main character has ever seen:

Compared to the intoxicating effect of her presence, the bottle of Dos Equis in his left hand was wholly alcohol free.

Eek! It seems bad enough that an experienced writer still has to resort to such tired tricks as using female characters that are strikingly beautiful in his novels. (That’s the kind of thing that a nerdy, 15 year old would-be novelist would do.) But what to make of such lines?

Here’s another one (Neela being the strikingly beautiful woman in question), much later in the book:

For furia would be ecstasy, too, and Neela’s love was the philosopher’s stone that made possible the transmuting alchemy.

Double eek! And another one:

His was learning her better every day, exploring her as if she were a new city in which he had sublet space and where he hoped one day to buy.

Good grief! That’s one of today’s best writers?

To cap it all, here’s the most telling sentence of the book as far as I am concerned. Comparing another character to Hemingway, Rushdie writes:

Now, like poor Ernest, most feminine of great male American writers, destroyed by his failure to be the phony, macho Papa-self he had chosen to inhabit, Jack had gone hunting for himself, the biggest game of all.
[my emphasis]

Correct me if I am wrong, but isn’t it precisely the failure to be the macho self that makes the macho self phony?

Last time I checked, “phony” meant “counterfeit” or “fake”. Did Rushdie really mean to say that Hemingway failed to be a fake macho? Does this make him a real, successful macho?

There’s no excuse for such bad writing. And there’s no reason for me to read another word by Salman Rushdie for the rest of my life. Anyone looking for a second-hand copy of Fury with a few “eek”s scribbled in the margins?

Comments are closed.

Leave a Reply

Comments are closed.