Rushdie’s Windmills – All Too Real?

A strange month – more like 6 weeks – with only a single post, thanks to some new exciting work I’ve been getting into, and in which I will continue to be buried for some months if not years to come. I’ll share what I can – confidences permitting.

[Aside – Last weekend, Sat and Sun I had hundreds of hits, 150 and 250 respectively,  on a single post from 2016 (with a 2018 update) – the title of which is a quote from Thomas Paine: Odd because so far as I can see it has nothing to do with the single post I did make last weekend – a continuation of my “deep dive” into idealism and pan-psychism.]

Thing is, despite being too busy to read and post much, if anything, other than the odd social media interaction, I have used the travel and hotel time to read. Mainly Salman Rushdie’s latest “Quichotte”.

Now I’m a solid fan of Rushdie’s imagination and style, the obvious Midnight’s Children and Satanic Verses, as well as the later Ground Beneath Her Feet, The Enchantress of Florence and Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights not to mention the “fatwa” biographical Joseph Anton. [Post Note – add Victory City to that list.]

I mentioned already from the start and again over a third through – on twitter – that I was getting a strong sense of Neil Gaiman from the fantastic US road-trip narrative. But then it’s not the first time I’ve expressed this parallel, and it continues to the end. No bad thing.

Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods felt like Douglas Adams (Hitchhiker and Long Dark Teatime) meets Salman Rushdie (Satanic Verses and Two Years) on several levels

Salman Rushdie’s Two Years  put me much in mind of Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods” and every bit as rich, and there is at least one direct reference.

Bulgakov’s “Master & Margarita” is seriously weird and compelling. Some cross between Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses and Neil Gaiman’s American Gods but written in 1930’s Russia!

It helps of course to have your own experiences of the US, culture, cities and road-trips between them, but then US road-trips are probably engrained in our culture whether we’ve made them or just watched the movies. There are running “jokes” – every place mentioned with “Name”, “State Abbreviation” and “(Population)” from the smallest US boondocks drive-through to the greatest Asian cities, not least Mumbai of course, or Bombay as Rushdie and several of his author’s characters insist on still calling it – which is fine by me, they’re all phonetic anglicised spellings anyway.

Droll and knowingly witty throughout, the narrative actually builds quite slowly, and it took me several sessions to get engaged beyond my fascination with the continuing aura of American Gods.

But the confabulation of reality and fantasy builds to the very end, Life of Pi or maybe fake news anyone? And indeed, that is the point of reading what Rushdie has written. It’s a satire – or maybe an all too real parable – on the demise of any grip on reality in the world as we are coming to know it.

The story itself is a classic quest, more than one in fact with multiple levels of irony between author and characters in their own fictional narratives, but obsessive irrational questing in the manner of Melville and his semi-autobiographical Ishmael narrating his Ahab. And there is a good dose of Amor Vincit Omnia – both creative and destructive – to the very end.

There were cars on fire and broken Best Buy windows, revealing that the desire for meaningless destruction and free TV’s survived even the end of days.

The world no longer has any purpose, except that you should finish your book [who me?]. When you have done so, the stars will begin to go out.

Is that what you believe, that life is meaningless and we are turning into animals without morality?

[Yes] I think it is legitimate for a work of art made in the present time to say, we are being crippled by the culture we have made, by its most popular elements above all – and by stupidity and ignorance and bigotry.

There was news on the radio [in the] Chevvy Cruze, [that it] was being discontinued along with the Impala and the Volt as part of General Motors’ cost-cutting drive. [Me and mine again?]

What I hoped for is indeed beyond hope … all around me the whole human race was losing its reason, its capacity for ethics, its goodness, its soul. And it may be, I can’t say, that this deep failure brought down upon us the deeper failure of the cosmos.

Everything is so radical, so post-Einsteinian, we’re having to make up the physics as we go along.

Newton announced his theory of gravity before he’d done the math. He just knew he was right.

Harrowing stuff, disturbingly close to the apparent reality of our times. Rushdie has done it again. Essential reading.


[Post Note: The US road-trip “quest” I didn’t mention in the comparison’s above was of course ZMM, already given as a background to my own thinking at this time, despite the Melville comparison, like ZMM itself.

Here, Rushdie in an interview about “Quichotte”, points out the explicit ZMM parallels questing for reality between father(s) and son(s). Hat Tip Dave Matos via Robert Pirsig Association. And again tacit, Windmills, Quichotte is explicitly Quixote without need to draw the comparison?

See also Rushdie remarking on the ZMM influence in his latest “Knife” in 2024.]


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