Tuesday, 31st December 2002, 8:26pm
An opinion by: Rascal

The Ground Beneath Her Feet by Salman Rushdie

Brainy, brilliant and just plain interesting is how I'd describe Salman Rushdie's writing. Imagine you're conversing with some incredibly knowledgable old wind-bag, say your favourite codger professor at school. Then imagine he also happens to be a witty raconteur and expert storyteller. In "The Ground Beneath Her Feet" Rushdie brings to us an onslaught of all the fun things there are to read about: love triangles, rags-to-riches, and descriptions of cultures, sub-cultures and moments in history (don't you just love other people's lives?)

I did worry about the rock 'n' roll theme of the book. Vina and Ormus, our lovers, are the driving force behind supergroup VTO, Supergroup means super-successful, world famous, timeless, seminal, etc etc. I don't know, I hear the term "rock" as in music, or "rock 'n' roll", I smirk - I can't take it seriously. But Vina is an excellent character and if that's what she wants to do then I'll hunker down into my sofa and read along for the ride. Rai, the photographer, is also a fascinating character which is a good thing because he's the story's narrator (I did mention a love triangle, right?).

This story's so good, but what really charmed me was the intensely-packed nature of the writing - why say something straight out when a runaway metaphor will do? Here are three examples from this fabulous, fun book, in order of appearance:


    "But Scholarship is one thing, parenthood is quite another, and Sir Darius Xerxes Cama, 'the Appolonian of Apollo Bunder,' was a staunch Cantabrigian rationalist and an eminent barrister-at-law who had 'eaten his dinners' at Middle Temple and had subsequently dedicated his life to what he called, in an unintentionally oxymoronic flash of wit, 'the miracle of reason.' He yielded up rights of paternity to no god, whatever his origin, took up the reins of fatherhood and, in strict fairness, oppressed all his children equally."


    "What's a 'culture'? Look it up. 'A group of micro-organisms grown in a nutrient substance under controlled conditions.' A squirm of germs on a glass slide is all, a laboratory experiment calling itself a society. Most of us wrigglers make do with life on that slide; we even agree to feel proud of that 'culture.' Like slaves voting for slavery or brains for lobotomy, we kneel down before the god of all moronic micro-organisms and pray to be homogenized or killed or engineered; we promise to obey. But if Vina and Ormus were bacteria too, they were a pair of bugs who wouldn't take life lying down. One way of understanding their story is to think of it as an account of the creation of two bespoke identities, tailored for the wearers by themselves. The rest of us get our personae off the peg, our religion, language, prejudices, demeanour, the works; but Vina and Ormus insisted on what one might call auto-couture."


    "...Cool Yul passes on the contents of the feds' phone call. Vina snorts her disdain, declines to take the threat seriously - Everybody's got a fed on their tail right now, from Dr. Nina to Winston O'Boogie, it's like a fashion statement? - and goes off at one of her zany tangents. What do they know, nobody ever gets rock lyrics right anyway. For years I thought Hendrix was a faggot. You know, 'scuse me while I kiss this guy. And what was that about my feet begin to crumble. I used to admire the surrealism of rock lyrics?, the wild non sequiteurs. Then I realized it was just my fucking ears"

Well, she's just gorgeous Vina is, I say, and so are them rest of 'em so read the book already.

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