The Golden Houseby Salman Rushdie – DNF (no star rating)
The Golden House is the type of book I tend to love: high literary fiction which is satire and political commentary. However, even I have my breaking point with such novels and The Golden House has hit it. At almost 30% (chapter 13), this is a DNF for me and I suspect I won’t be picking it back up.
While I do not think literary fiction needs to reference other fiction or the like in order to be literary fiction, I don’t mind it in stories and I do find, when well done, it contributes greatly to the story line. However, in The Golden House, the name dropping is incessant and unnecessary. Very quickly it feels like Rushdie is simply doing it to prove that not only has he been well versed in the classics, like Greek mythology, but he is also completely up to date on news stories and happenings throughout the world. The references are all over the place and quite often add nothing to the story but frustration. The references are often obscure, almost on purpose, and many other times, are things only a few well read people would have come across. The reader is left feeling throughout the book that s/he must be missing something crucial by not understanding all these references. This will be a major impediment to this book finding an audience.
I personally have no problem reading a book that regularly refers to a few pieces of literature, even if I do not know them that well or even have never heard of them. I will stop reading the book to spend time going over the literary reference. Referring to other literature can be an effective literary device and I was interested in the Greek mythology references tied to the characters names in The Golden House. Readers of my blog will note that I highly recommended The Judgement of Richard Ritcher, which continuously throughout the book references a story I had not heard of going into the book. It was an effective literary device. I strongly suspect that had I finished The Golden House, the references to Greek mythology would have been highly effective literary devices. I am not critical of those references. I am critical of nearly every other reference, including to “famous” people and other very specific Manhattan snobbish, high-minded references.
Underneath the layers of random, unnecessary, obnoxious references is a typical literary fiction story, in which the first part spends significant time on character development. If one can ignore feeling in the dark because of the references, there is rich enough character development that I do not think it is entirely necessary to understand the random references (of course, the Greek ones are vital to the story). At about 15%, I decided to not slow down for the references I was unaware of and simply pushed through them. In doing so, I saw the beauty of Rushdie’s character development. It is an unusual style that is a bit challenging to get into, random references aside, but then at some point, it becomes crystal clear who the character is, was, and will be. The reader feels s/he is fumbling along through long sentences that do not seem to be going anywhere, until all of a sudden, one arrives at the destination. I fully grasp why people praise Rushdie’s writing. There is much beauty in it.
Ultimately, the random, incessant references were not why I gave up on this book. I was willing to look past them. By this point in the book, I am mostly invested in the characters and am interested in seeing how this plays out. The reason I gave up reading this book was personal. It is not something easily put into words, in part because of its intimacy and vulnerability, but mostly because it is simply a feeling I get from this book. It would be challenging to write a book about the
Trumps, err Goldens, and not leave a bad taste in the reader’s mouth. There is something seedy, dirty, misogynistic, and unsettling about this book, but it is just a hint of a feeling, but a feeling strong enough it was becoming increasingly more challenging to read this book. As some one particularly sensitive to such threads in a book, I trust that this book will only become more challenging to read as it progresses and I am currently not in the head space to cope with those challenges. If my dog weren’t dying, maybe I would be, but right now, I am not in a space to read a book that goes down the rabbit hole of the Trumps, err Goldens. I do hope to get back to this book, but I won’t try to read it again until I am able to read reviews by people other than those whom excitedly requested the ARC or snatched up early copies. Only then will I get a true sense of what I am in for if I finish this book and without that sense, I do not see me picking this book back up anytime soon.
I received this book from Netgalley and Random House in exchange for an honest review.
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