peteg's blog - noise - books - 2011 04 24 Rushdie LukaAndTheFireOfLife

Salman Rushdie: Luka and the Fire of Life

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I read Haroun and the Sea of Stories a long time ago and was charmed by Rushdie's foray into children's stories. He is well-placed to do this sort of thing, being broadly educated and (historically) playful and irreverent.

Here, however, we get a rewarming of the the aged/obsolete pantheistic god routine that Douglas Adams carried off so well, albeit with godship incorporating Sonic and Mario. Adams was funnier and more inventive; this reads like Rushdie trying to make the classics appealing to the video game generation, and exhausting the theological referents he dug up, yielding a Frankenovel (but not Frankenstein). Fair enough maybe, but all "puzzles" are resolved by deus ex machina, a boring and unambitious metaphysics that does not get better with repetition. For these reasons and more it lacks a moral dimension and falls far short of the classics, such as those by the famously immoral Oscar Wilde.

Some of this reads like an essay pleading for continued attention to imagination, reflecting but not really extending his earlier arguments for liberalism that I am susceptible to, but these are far more abstract than Wilde's concepts of commonwealth, and so unlikely to make much of an impact on a child. The Guardian review has the money quote:

"Magic is fading from the universe," one character warns. "We aren't needed any more, or that's what you all think, with your High Definitions and low expectations. One of these days you'll wake up and we'll be gone, and then you'll find out what it's like to live without even the idea of Magic."

The cheapness of thrills is pernicious, yes, but I fear it takes experience to develop notions of value, not fairy stories. Don't believe anyone who says this is Rushdie at his best/worst/most creative/most irritating or any other damm thing; this book merely reinforces my feeling that Rushdie's best days are behind him, and maybe this should have been called Prometheus Wept.

I borrowed this from the ANU library.