209. Fury by Salman Rushdie
I read Fury (Random House, 2001; 259) as an introduction to Salman Rushdie. It was to prepare me for the author's two major works I have on my shelf: Satanic Verses and Midnight's Children. However, I don't know if the book did what I wanted it to do. Having heard a lot about Midnight's Children - winning the 1981 Booker and the Best of the Booker twice (for the 25th and 40th anniversaries of the award), the idea is to enter it fully prepared with the author's prose-style so that I will enjoy it completely because I also know people have read it and not liked it. Fury was therefore meant to be the introductory text to Rushdie, for me.
The story is about a fifty-five year Professor Malik Solanka, a Cambridge philosopher, who leaves his wife and a learning-to-talk son in London for a completely new life in New York. An anomie of sorts; though not religious. The story follows all the things that happened to him, finding love and losing it and finding love again and then losing it again. The friends he makes, dangerous people compared with his personality and where he was coming from and even the motive of his emigration out of London and the desertion of his family. The man himself carries his demons with him; demons that have been with him since childhood and which wouldn't leave him wholly unless he confronted them head-on. In New York, he would first meet a girl who would reinforce those demons and another who would bring him out.
However, the outward interpretation or manifestation of this miasmic goo of fury that hangs upon the Professor's head like a halo brings him financial rewards. And ironically, these dolls - his creation - would go on to represent everything about contemporary pop culture that he detests; the things that make the capitalist tick. And in New York, the doll-making continued, taking over the internet gaming industry. With a mix of web and pop lingua, Rushdie sought to portray his understanding of contemporary New York and its subcultures using landmarks, popular names and political incidents to stake the reference period.
In the story, fury is almost a character hanging over the lives of the people. It is also the rage of a man in his mid-life when he finds out that there is nothing he can change. That he is impotent about his situation or lacks the capacity to change things. The part where Malik followed the beautiful Neela to Lilliput-Blefuscu reads like science-fiction. It detracted from the story and if it was done to put some 'pace' and 'action' into the novel, then it failed. Here suicidal Malik had followed the head-turner of a beauty to Lilliput-Blefuscu on her mission to help her people in their revolt against the government. The old professor was on a retrieval mission.
In the end, the tormented professor would come back, after the failed mission, to his son but will not get his wife, who had, early on, consistently begged for his return unaware of the knife incident that caused her husband to desert them.
A good satire, of the grey type, and humorous as well but perhaps not the introduction I was expecting. Nevertheless, I will go ahead and read those two books.