I had only read one other book by Rushdie: “The Satanic Verses.” That was of course the one which earned Rushdie a fatwa, which was essentially an order issued by Ayatollah Khomeini that any good Muslim had the duty to kill the author. I don’t know a lot about the history of that particular fatwa, but you can read more about it here. In any case, Rushdie caught my interest when he gave an interesting and entertaining speech at CU in 2006 or so.* After he talked on campus, my friend Annie and I spent the next couple of weeks issuing fatwas on each other, usually in the form of notes passed across the office.
In any case, I’m only on page 100 or so since Rushdie’s novels are some pretty dense reading, at least compared to “Stuff White People Like.” I like the book so far, and I have to admit that Rushdie has a very distinct style, at least for my tastes. There are two things about his style that drive me nuts, though. The first is the use of the imperative directed at the reader, and the second is the occasional absence of commas when listing things. That may not make sense, so let me rip off his style a bit to give you an example:
“Look: Ryan sits on his exercise bike pedaling reading sweating straining.”
Yeah, it bugs me. I also realize that that sort of style may be the exact thing that some other people like about his writing, though. For some reason, it just seems to me to be overused, somehow. But I guess I should take into consideration that the book was written in 1980–the year I was born; perhaps I’m a “Midnight Child” for “Midnight’s Children”–and for all I know Rushdie pioneered the style. It may therefore seem familiar to me just because people have been ripping it off ever since then.
That also leads me to a short digression, but it still has a bit to do with the topic at hand.
Last month I wrote a few posts about “The Catcher in the Rye,” and after I read it, I loaned it to my coworker Roberto. When I was talking with him about the book at lunch one day, he specifically mentioned it’s linguistic style, saying, “It’s like watching ‘Scrubs.’” I thought that was kind of hilarious because I don’t know much about J.D. Salinger, but my free associations with his name don’t usually bring up “Zach Braff.” But still, Roberto had a point, and that point is that even though “Catcher” was written in the late 1940s, it still sounds almost completely modern. If you were to substitute a few slang words for more modern ones, the stream-of-consciousness style could just as easily come from a disgruntled schoolboy of 2009. Or at least that’s what we thought. We were wondering if everyone really talked like that in the 1940s, or if it was just Salinger who did. Also, we wondered how much impact that popular book has had on both writing and spoken expression or if, instead of influencing our culture’s speech, if it merely reflected it back to us.
So there you have it. I finally wrote a post that mentioned both Zach Braff and a fatwa.
*No offense, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, but his talk was a lot better than yours.