Salman Rushdie Complete Book Review

Below, you will find pictures of all my Salman Rushdie books (to my knowledge, every book he's written is reviewed below), as well as a few short sentences expressing my opinion of each. As you can guess from the number of his books that I've read, Rushdie is one of my favorite authors. Hopefully, this page can be a guide to Rushdie neophytes, to help them guide them through this great man's oeuvre.

Midnight's Children
- an incredible novel, a partially fictionalized version of India's recent history (just changed enough so that you cannot trust the details). This book launched Rushdie into fame, and rightly so. His style of writing is fully developed, with Rushdie's signature mixture of farce, fable, history and science fiction. Probably the best "starter book" for someone wanting to be introduced to Rushdie.

The Ground Beneath her Feet - I loved this book, as did my wife. The writing is free, flowing and dazzlingly virtuosic, showing Rushdie's evolution from his innovative (but more restrictive) voice of Midnight's Children, to his new capability to jump seemingly without effort between styles. Some parts of the book feel like filler, and could have benefited from a little more editing, but these are balanced by paragraphs who's beauty take your breath away. The story is a roar of a good time, with all the pop-culture references reminding me of Thomas Pynchon's Vineland.

The Satanic Verses - despite the controversy and the thickness of the book, this actually is a tremendously playful, fun and (in a good way) silly novel. In many ways, I enjoyed this more than Midnight's Children, but they're both in a tie for the award of "John's Favorite Rushdie Novel". The book begins with an hysterically funny situation involving two men falling to their deaths from a destroyed airplane, inventing a religion as they fall (the religion that fell out the air!). Give this book a chance, it won't disappoint you.

Grimus - Rushdie's first novel. While it does not show Rushdie's own novel writing style (which Midnight's Children showed) I nonetheless greatly enjoyed this novel. It is a tale of people who cannot die, who all eventually end up on a hidden island controlled by a strange "Effect". Some may call this book science fiction, in that it does take place in another world, but most of Rushdie's books take place in altered realities. Grimus reminded me most of The Ground Beneath her Feet in its blending of Literature and Science Fiction, and in both book's relative lack of Rushdie-english (a little bit goes a long way).

The Moor's Last Sigh - the abundance of Rushdie's "Indian-English" made this book one of his more difficult to read. I have to admit that I was somewhat bored by the book, but was startled when in the last 100 pages or so, the book change style and became almost a totally different book. I tremendously enjoyed this "end" to the book, even though it felt disjointed, but it felt more like an excellent short story tacked onto the end.

Shame - my least favorite Rushdie book. Too nasty and bitter. Read it if you want to read everything Rushdie wrote, otherwise skip it.

Mirrorwork - 50 years of Indian Writing 1947-1997: an exciting compendium of Indian writing, beginning with Nehru's stunning speech at the moment of India's independence. About 1/3rd of the book didn't do much for me, another 1/3rd I enjoyed reading, and a final 1/3rd truly captured me: I consider that to be a strong ratio for such a diverse collection. I was especially impacted by the story of living in a remote village during a drought, as a psychological study of humanity under pressure.

East, West - A collection of short stories, many of which I enjoyed. Good for Rushdie fans looking for something quite different from Rushdie (his novels are all so epochal, that his short stories make a very interesting contrast)

The Jaguar Smile: a Nicaraguan Journey - I enjoyed this non-fiction travelogue of Rushdie's visit to Nicaragua, and found it quite perceptive. I reminded me of cartoonist Bill Griffith's travelogue of his visit to Cuba, as both express a useful mixture of bewilderment and open-eyed observation.

Haroun and the Sea of Stories - A wonderful children's book in the style of Arabian Nights. This was the first Rushdie book I read, which I unfortunately picked up during Final's study week during my last few weeks of college (unfortunate because I didn't study at all for a few days, as this book consumed me).

The Wizard of Oz
- Rushdie's analysis of the famous movie, along with his own feelings toward the movie. The comparisons to India's movies are interesting. A relative straight, spin-free analysis (no fancy subtextual deconstruction of the margins, thank goodness!) of the movie, which gave me renewed affection for it. I especially enjoyed his explanation of the pathetic Hollywood ending which doesn't fit with the rest of the movie's tone.

Imaginary Homelands - a collection of essays, criticism, and book reviews. I learned a great deal from this, because of the depth and variety of Rushdie's interests. If you are stuck deciding what next author you want to read, I suggest that you read this book, as Rushdie covers many of his favorite (and not so favorite) authors. What's wonderful about this collection of essays is seeing Rushdie's mastery of non-fiction writing. He seems perfectly at ease in writing about all manner of topics, and yet manages to slip in the perfect turn of phrase or elegantly coined word.

All About H. Hatterr by G.V. Desani is a wonderful book. Even more outrageous than Rushdie in his use of language, this reminded me of a cross between Rushdie-gone-insane and Alfred Jarry's Ubu Roi! (it shares a great deal of the sublimely ridiculous, continuous farce of Ubu Roi). Of course, this book greatly pre-dates Rushdie, and Rushdie acknowledges Desani's influence on him in his introduction to Mirrorwork. I include it in this list of Rushdie books simply because I believe that admirers of Rushdie's books will enjoy Desani as well. Sadly, this book is long out of print, but can be obtained fairly inexpensively from many of the web-based antiquarian book dealers, such as the Advanced Book Exchange (where I obtained my copy).

Salman Rushdie: Sentenced to Death, by W.J. Weatherby - a blatantly biased, and poorly researched biography of Rushdie. This book relies heavily on the flawed notion that all of Rushdie's characters are actually autobiographical (a dangerous assumption when reading fiction), which leads the author to some outlandishly preposterous conclusions. I bought this book at a used book store for $5 -- I should have skipped it.

Other book categories:
Science fiction,
Ayn Rand,
Buckminster Fuller