Quichotte by Salman Rushdie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quichotte by Salman Rushdie

English fiction

Source – Library book

I am now on the third of this year’s Booker shortlist as I said the three books I have read so far were ones I may have read anyway. I have read Midnight’s children, satanic verses, Haroun and the sea of stories and the ground beneath her feet so I haven’t read anything by him for at least twenty years as my reading path went towards translation I moved away from his works but this being based on Don Quixote caught my eye when it made the longlist which was before it came out when I read he was using that classic tale as a background to a road trip through middle America I decided to read it.

“Sancho”, Quichotte cried, full of a happiness he didn’t know how to express. My silly little Sancho, my big tall Sanch, My son, my sidekick, my squire! Hutch to my Starsky,Spook to my Kirk, Scully to muy Mulder, BJ to my Hawkeye, robin to my Batman! peele to my Key, Stimpy to my Ren, Niles to my Frasier, Arya to my hound! Peggy to my Don, Jesse to my Walter, tubbs to my Crockett, I love you! O my warrior Sancho sent by Persues to help me slay my meduas and win Slama’s heart, here you are at last. “Cut it out,,”dad”, the imaginary young man rejoined. “Whats in all this for me?”

He imagines Sancho as his sidekick

As in the other books by him, I have read by Rushdie he uses various stories within his novel. here we have a man an anglo Indian writer of spy novels that is alone his son has left him. He has wanted to write about a man traveling across  Middle America this is where he comes up with the Character of Quichotte an Indian salesman Ismail but he takes the name Quichotte. A man who has spent his evenings and all his free time watching the trashy side of US tv those odd reality shows and dramas and quiz shows he is a sickly man and has fallen for an Indian tv star Salma R he writes to her and decides to travel across America and get to this woman as he does this he invents a son as he sees it all those great Tv stars he had seen had a sidekick so he has a son called Sancho along the way he meets many racists in Middle America in one small town they become Mastodons this is a nod to the Absurdist work of the Italian writer Ionesco his play Rhino about the rise of fascism in Italy here is echoed with a warning with the undercurrent of Populism that Trump has brought to the fore that has a whole heap or racism entwined in its heart. So as he heads across the in his battered old Chevy Cruze meanwhile the writer of this story sam sees his story of Indian salesman having echos of his own life! Will Quichotte get to Salma R?

My dear miss Salma R<

with this note I introduce myself to you. With this hand I declare my love. In time to come as I move ever closer you will come to see that I am true and that you must be mine. You are my grail and this is my quest.I bow my head before your beauty. I am and will ever remain your knight

sent by a smile,

Quichotte

A letter he writes to his beloved Salma as he heads across the US to her.

 

Another book taking a look at the heart of Trumps America it is interesting that two of the books on this years list take a view of this country at its heart I heard Rushdie interviewed and he said he had wanted to move his book outside the big cities in the US like Duck Newburyport it use the heart of America as Rushdie pointed out the red states the heartland of Trump. What Rushdie captures with Quichotte and  Sancho is that unspoken undercurrent of racism that is just below the surface that he shows him with a brilliant piece of magic realism when they all turn into dinosaurs. A writer that even in his seventies is still trying to challenge his readers. Now I read half of the list I wanted I’m not sure if I will read the other three I do have two books and am awaiting the third. If I do the next book will be the orchestra of minorities

Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann

British/American fiction

Source – personal copy

I am rarely tempted by a new book in English but this book grabbed me when I saw pictures of this huge book I was interested in what it was about any way Lucy Ellmann had written a number of books since the late ’80s. She is the daughter of two writers and is married to a writer and has taught creative writing. She had all her earlier books published by a big publisher. But when this book was finished and described to her usual publisher They turned it down. It was picked up by the small publisher Galley Beggar Press. I mean a thousand-page modernist novel that has no plot and is a stream of consciousness eight sentences that makes up the book.

I wish I had nice handwriting, the fact that i also have a few of her favourite sweaters, but that’s about it, beside the stuff she gave me, like some books and stuff, ups, fedex, rolex, X-ray, and my old patchwork quilt that was always on my bed as a kid, the  fact that it’s reall falling apart now, the fact that Jane Austen no longer exists and only ever existed briefly, not long enough to finish  Sandition, tragedy, enormity, Bronx cheer, Graduation Gowns, Choir Robes, paper owels, humdinger, Uber, Lyft, biege countertop, the fact that some people work for Uber and lyft at the same time.

One passage where she admires her moves handwriting then drifts off to something else in her mind.

The book is narrated by a housewife she is from Ohio and that is all we really know. Well, we learn more like she has her own baking business that she runs from her home.  What follows in the book is her thoughts that flow and drift from here to there lists words jumping from words that sound alike. These lists I loved as she had a thought an old productor some such and then from that word jumps to similar words. It then goes to the state of Modern America Trump gaining power. Writers she likes Laura Ingalls her of little house fame and then she references Anne Tyler especially her book The Accidental tourist which maybe of all her books captures modern American life as it follows a family recovering from the loss of a son to a shooting. The book is full of America but also her family from the title that relates to an event in her youth involving her sister. Then she worries about her own four kids in Trump’s world. It is hard like many books of this length, to sum up the world of this book as it is more about the internal mind than the external world and how her thoughts run and that is so difficult to capture.

Laura Ingalls Wilder’s dog was called Jack, the fact that i keep thinking I see the abominable snowmanmoving between those trees down there, a bigfoot, just behind the bushers, gully the fact that ben would be thrilled, the fact that I should photograph it, but of course I don’t have my phone, that that if I had my phone I would be in this mess freezing to death in the wilderness, the fact that I am always forgetting my cell, the fact that it’s so silly not to have it with you at all times, the fact that the people on the planes in 9/11 made good use of theirphone, the fact that I bet every American has carried their cell phone with them since 9/11

Another digression from Laura Ingalls to 9/11 in four lines.

Everyone knows this book as I was discussing one twitter when a friend ask me what I thought of it as they had been put off by the hype and I could connect with that but the thought of a thousand-page book that tries to grapple with the scary world that is modern America. Well for me this remind me in tone at times to Thomas Bernhard as it has at times a similar feeling in the tone of her words if he had been a midwest American housewife this would have been how he wrote even the lack of paragraphs and long sentences are something that Bernhard used in his books. I was pleased when I read that she had given Bernhard to her husband to read many years ago. When it made the Booker shortlist I knew I had to read it I had already got it as a fan of really long novels it was one that grabbed me and showed that small publishers are great at taking chances she describes how she actually added 30,000 words in one edit of the original manuscript how many large publishers would allow that to a large book get larger. I was reminded of Sergio de la Pava struggle to get his Naked singularity like this another huge modernist work that in another way wrestles with the world that is modern America. Ellmann tries to grab what life is like for a middle-aged woman struggling to get by the changing of focus in the female roles with in the world the rise of Trump and does it in a wonderfully poetic and thought-provoking book.

10 minutes 38 seconds in this strange world by Elif Shafak

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 minutes 38 seconds in this strange world by Elif Shafak

British Turkish fiction

Source – Library

I briefly met Elif when she was a judge at the IFFP prize a number of years ago. So when this made the Booker shortlist this year with a few other books I had been interested in I decide to do a little challenge of reading them and this was the first book of the list it is Elif’s eleventh novel I had reviewed an earlier book by her Honour. She has written books in both English and Turkish. She also speaks of women’s rights, minority rights, Freedom of speech and of course Turkey.

She saw herself as a baby – Naked, slick and red.Only a few seconds earlier she had lefther mother’s womb and slid througha wet, slippery passage, gripped by fear wholly new to her, and here she was now in a room full of sounds and colours and things unkown. Sunlight through the stained glass windows dappled the quilt on the bed and reflected off the water in a porcelain basin, despite it being a chillyday in January. Into that same water an elderly woman dressed in shades of autumn leaves- the midwife-dipped a towel and wrung it out, blood trickling down her forearm.

Mashallah, mashalla its a girl

The midwife took a piece of flint, which sha had tucked awayin her bra and cut the ummbilical cord.

I loved the image of the flint in the midwifes hand cutting the cord.

 

This book focus on what would be in a paper may be a small byline and brief description and that is the murder of a prostitute. The Prostitute in by the name is called Tequilla Leila as she is upturned in a bin her life is drifting away and for the last ten minutes she remembers smells that recall her life in parts as each smell leads to a Proustian recall. From Salt which takes her back to her birth and the midwife cutting her from her mother with a piece of Flint. Then Lemon and sugar and the Grand house of her youth that once belonged to an Armenian doctor each minute drifts by and her life moves forward and the smell of Cardamon coffee and the reason she heads to Istanbul and into the brothels after an event with an Uncle. She falls in with five friends that become her second family a man besotted with her and transvestite, a dwarf a singer and a stunning Somalian. Their stories intertwine with Leila own as the minutes tick down her life draws to an end. To a last taste of the strawberry cake and the second half of the book that starts in the morgue and sees what happens with her friends and the aftermath of Tequilla’s Leila life.

Zaynab was born a thousand miles away from Istanbul, in an isolated mountain village in Northern Lebanon. Fpr generations the Sunni famlies in the area had only intermarried, and dwarfism was so common in the village that they often attracted visitors from the outside world- Journalists, scientists and the like. Zaynabs brothers and sisters were average sizes and when the time came they would marry, one after another. Among her siblings she alone had inherited her [arents condition, both of them little people

One of the side stories of her friends the dwarf Zaynab !

I loved the first half of the book the Proustian remembrance of Lelia’s life as she laid dying as the tastes of her life from the salt of her skin and being cut from her mother with a sharpened piece of flint to a strawberry cake each leads to events in the life and shows how one event turns this woman life but also lead her into a different group of friends this is a side character of a Pamuk novel brought to Life this is a colorful view of the Brothels of Istanbul and shows how each woman there has her own story of how they end up there and turned into a beautiful work of fiction that brings to life their world. A strange fact is that there is a woman in a bin in duck Newburyport which I am a third into already. I have read a number of other books from Istanbul but none has brought to life this underbelly of the city!

 

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