Sunday, February 21, 2010

(Book #7) Salman Rushdie - Grimus

Before the season premiere of Lost a couple of weeks ago, I barely could recall the name Salman Rushdie. It was upon our second viewing of the episode that Jess spotted one of his books in the hands of a character. A sidebar: If you don't watch Lost, you should. But if you don't know anything about Lost, just know that books are one of the fascinating layers of the show adding another dimension to the story and characters. The books that appear often hint at the mysteries of the island and events that unfold before the viewer each week. Tackling all the books shown, mentioned or referenced in the show would be a yearlong undertaking in and of itself, so I become selective. I went to the library in search of the book, 'Haroun and the Sea of Stories', which I had seen the evening prior. They didn't have that particular book, but I found myself looking at some of Rushdie's other works anyway. In skimming the generic back-cover descriptions, I found one that sounded very much like the premise of a certain show that takes place on a certain mysterious island. This is how I came to read Rushdie's novel 'Grimus'.

'Grimus' introduces us to the main character of Flapping Eagle, an Indian (for lack of a better, word because I cannot use the term Native American as "America" doesn't exist in the reality we are shown) who chooses to become an immortal and the events that that choice led to. This is not to say that the story is about immortality, because at a certain point the character finds himself in a place, an island, of which the inhabitants are ALL immortal. Immortality acts as the medium in which the events on the island occur. I concede that this statement must be a bit confusing, but the story itself was intentionally confusing. We follow along with Flapping Eagle's uncertainty at what is happening around him and are forced into questioning a whole myriad of things that seem commonplace within the story. Everything seems a little bit off, and we are led to believe that the answers to all of this lie with Grimus, a mysterious entity that remains unseen for the majority of the book. The drive for the story then becomes the pursuit of answers and the pursuit of Grimus.

Much like Lost, the reader has to do a lot of wandering and questioning before finally getting to the payoff, two chapters which effectively unravel the mysteries and resolve the question of "Why are we here on this island?" The similarities in themes of obsession, attraction, choices and yes, multiple dimensions are not merely plot points. They are devices used to emphasize the evolution or devolution of characters and the essence of their being in a cyclical world. These are universal themes and something addressed in nearly all stories.

Even if it turns out that this book doesn't hold the secrets of Lost (though admittedly there were many similarities) Rushdie still crafted a compelling story soaked in philosophy, science and dark humanity. As this was only his first novel, written in 1975, I can expect that his further writings are even more compelling. Perhaps I may even get to another one of them sometime this year.

Until next week…

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