After the great Indian literary spat (William D. vs Pankaj Mishra & Others), it's time for Rushdie bashing. Many of his fans have found his recently released Shalimar The Clown to be a disappointing fare. Just like his previous novel Fury and Ground Beneath Her Feet.
When I argued that the guy has been writing under tremendous pressure (couched in a different language), so give him a break, someone retorted: "Just becuase Rushdie was fatwad, had lived in exile, had married four or five times or takes four years to write a novel, doesn't mean that we have to give him grace marks as far as evaluating the literary merit of his work is concerned. With every novel, a novelist is a first time writer: s/he would be subjected to as much scrutiny and enthusiam as a debutant. And with every passing novel, the stakes actually rise. If Ian McEwan, Philp Roth, Don Delillo and Thomas Pynchon can not just live up, but actually stun us with each new work, then why not Rushdie?"
(He was reacting to my comment: "It is very easy to take potshots on a writer. Rushdie takes a couple of years to write a novel and some people dismiss it as a clownish work within days of the novel's publication. The guy is a fabulist and his work should be approached in that manner. ")
I don't have an exact answer but I recall Rushdie's words: A writer will write what's within him (or something to that effect). So, there he is.
The latest in the line of critiquing Shalimar The Clown and its author is NYT's MICHIKO KAKUTANI. She says:
Mr. Rushdie's latest book, "Shalimar the Clown," aspires to turn the story of a toxic love triangle into a fable about the fate of Kashmir and the worldwide proliferation of terrorism. But this time, the author's allegory-making machinery clanks and wheezes. Although the novel is considerably more substantial than his perfunctory 2001 book, "Fury," it lacks the fecund narrative magic, ebullient language and intimate historical emotion found in "Midnight's Children" and "The Moor's Last Sigh."
Worse, "Shalimar the Clown" is hobbled by Mr. Rushdie's determination to graft huge political and cultural issues onto a flimsy soap opera plot - a narrative strategy that not only overwhelms his characters' stories but also trivializes the larger issues the author is trying to address.
However, Rushdie's star power is still intact. My friend Susan had a brush with this piece of literary history at the Hatchards bookshop in Piccadilly. She beautifully describes her experience here.