Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Book Club

As a reminder, the Divine Comedy of Errors book club selected Midnight’s Children, by Salman Rushdie, and participants were supposed to finish Book One by today. So, how many of you made it through all of Book One? I’m guessing very few, so I’ll avoid spoilers for those of you who are a little behind, and make the next assignment a short one in order to give everyone time to catch up. So far, I am enjoying the book, but it is definitely not a quick read. The story feels like the author squeezed as many characters, events, and descriptions as possible into the pages. The language can be difficult at times- I was going to look up all unfamiliar words and keep a list of their definitions, but between Indian terms like Begum (a Muslim woman of rank, roughly equivalent to saying Ma’am, which I just realized must be short for Madame THIS VERY SECOND. Did everyone else already know this?) and English words whose meanings I can grasp even without knowing the exact definition (for example, tussock: n. a tuft or clump of growing grass or the like.), the list would have been endless, so I chose to sacrifice assiduity for progress. Anyways, here are some thoughts so far:

1. I had never read anything by Rushdie before, so I had no idea what to expect. I am amazed how much the writing style reminds me of South American writers Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Isabel Allende. Mystic realism all over the place!

2. I love some of the images- Aadam Aziz falling in love via glimpses through a hole in a sheet, Lifafa Das trying to fit the whole world into his peepshow box, etc.

3. Many of my favorite novels are lengthy epics that trace the history of a family over a period of many years (examples: Middlesex, the Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay). Midnight’s Children shares this format.

4. I like it when the narrator interrupts the story to chat with Padma and whatnot. It feels like the reader is getting a little break.

5. I wonder if Nadir Khan will reappear. I’m guessing yes.

6. What is the deal with Joseph D’Costa and Mary Pereira? I think they’re Indians with white people names (Christian converts?), but I can’t really figure them out. Apparently, Mary becomes the narrator’s nanny, so that explains why they are in the story.

Next assignment: By next Tuesday, read up until the start of the chapter entitled Love In Bombay. In my version, that's page 205.

6 comments:

Kris said...

I checked my nearest book store, but they didn't have it! I may still try and catch up with you guys if I can find it...

Kevin said...

Sorry I don't have the time to join the book club (I spend all my time reading and commenting on DCOE itself). You might have noticed that D'Costa and Pereira are both Portuguese names. Goa (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goa), a popular international beach resort in western India, was colonized by the Portuguese around 1500 and they held onto it until 1961, 14 years after the rest of India got independence from Britain. A friend of mine wrote a book with a Father Tony D'Souza, who was very much Indian. Around the Goa area there are indeed a fair amount of Indian people with Portuguese surnames (and yes, of these, a decent amount are Catholics whose families converted over many centuries).

eileen said...

Kevin, that definitely makes sense. The book always clearly states when a character is non-Indian (i.e. British), so I think that these characters must be Indians with Portuguese surnames.

mj said...

I'm very behind (page 20) and very confused. I'm hoping that as a I continue reading the pieces will all fail into place. BTW I didn't know that Ma'am was short for Madame either.

Ryan said...

I like it! It is nice to see that before Rushdie was a larger than life AUTHOR - marrying models, turning out swill, and living in Bono's house, he could write.
I agree with Eileen -- I like the interludes a lot. So far the book is funny (I cannot hit her spittoon...; the etymology of Padma)and despite its scope/ambition the characters seem genuine. I hate it when ideas masquerade as characters. That doesn't seem to be the case here.

Anonymous said...

I am not that far from the end of the first book. And yes I have to read slow, not only for the lack of indi, but the lack of very specific english vocabulary. However I'am actually enjoying the book, specially for the ability of Rushdie (which I didn't read before) to describe everything that you can catch with your senses. For ex. the boat man, Tai was so stinky when he decide not to shower...that actually you can smell it in those pages (or may be was something else :)))

I love the "whatitsname" and the image of those families living in the old british houses with everything intact. And finally the fact that knowing all those characters is a great way to imagine all the influences for this midnight kid...

Caro