The book in question is Salman Rushdie's "Midnight's Children," winner of the Booker of Bookers, ie the best novel to have won the Booker in the last 25 years. There is no doubt that Rushdie is a major talent. His prose is lyrical, descriptive, funny, moving. His characters are finely drawn and the story is rich and filled with twists and turns. So why am I counting down until the book is finished? I feel like I've been reading the damned thing non-stop for the past two weeks and I still have 150 pages to go.
For those interested, the story recounts the life of Saleem Sinai, born on the stroke of midnight the day of India's independence from Great Britain. As Saleem narrates the story of his life, he holds a mirror up to India's history, making deliberate parallels and thematic links between the two. Saleem's story also necessarily includes the story of his family, friends, neighbors as well as the other "midnight children", born in the first minute of India's independence, to whom Saleem is psychically linked (in particular, one boy born at the same moment at the same hospital, DOT DOT DOT).
The book is a highly organized jumble of past, present, historical and personal and Rushdie does an excellent job of making it all seem inter-connected and meaningful. Even the magical touches are smoothly integrated into the story. So why am I having such tough time with it?
Maybe I'm being bogged down by the very richness of the cast of characters. Rushdie/Saleem recounts the life stories of practically every person that makes an appearance in the book. Or maybe I'm not familiar enough with Indian history so the tossing of so many historical and mythical figures begins to feel a bit like homework. Or maybe its the denseness of the prose itself, clause upon clause of similes, metaphors and great pronouncements. Maybe there's only so much brilliance I can take.
Only time will tell if this is a book that will stay with me after I've finished it. Maybe I will be so blown away by the whole of it, I'll forget the difficulty of the parts. But at the moment, I'm only feeling frustration and guilt for not being more in awe. Of course, maybe I've just made a mistake trying to read it on a beach vacation. In my dark Parisian apartment, perhaps I'd be totally caught up in its hypnotic spell. Then again, back in Paris I have a lot more distractions so perhaps I'd have a lot more than 150 pages to go. (Incidentally, a film version will be coming out shortly which I'm sure I will see. Eventually.)
Have you had a similar experience with a work of acknowledged greatness? Is there a book/movie/artwork that the world agrees is genius but you just don't get? Help me feel less like a dum-dum here...