ALPHABET READING CHALLENGE - ENTRY #1
July 6, 2012
Feeling like Montezuma, by Fleet Foxes
M - Midnight’s Children, by Salman Rushdie
Saleem Sinai is born at the stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947, the very moment of India’s independence. Greeted by fireworks displays, cheering crowds, and Prime Minister Nehru himself, Saleem grows up to learn the ominous consequences of this coincidence. His every act is mirrored and magnified in events that sway the course of national affairs; his health and well-being are inextricably bound to those of his nation; his life is inseparable, at times indistinguishable, from the history of his country. Perhaps most remarkable are the telepathic powers linking him with India’s 1,000 other “midnight’s children,” all born in that initial hour and endowed with magical gifts.
I proposed to M the idea of a reading challenge largely to find a motivator that will push me to finally finish Midnight’s Children. This book was bought almost a year ago now, and since then it has been gently caressed and set on my table many times, yet rarely opened. I’ve become a terrible sort of reader; teasing but apprehensive forays culminating in cowardice and subsequent guilt. For anyone that’s seen my master list for the ARC, the embarrassing quantity of barely started novels attests to my being a fair weather lover (as someone recently called me). I have a hard time calming my anxiety for a story’s characters, a fear of either not liking them (a wasted investment) or else of falling in love with a character of hopeless tragedy (e.g. anyone from A Fine Balance).
I haven’t allowed myself to continue this book because already, from the first few chapters, the narrator is at once endearing (in his self-deprecation and insistence on doing things properly) and upsetting (in the fear that his self-deprecation is well founded, which is sad) in his almost stream-of-consciousness storytelling. But I regularly pick up and run my hands over the book because I remember the beauty of Aziz’s - Saleem’s grandfather - first encounters with his future wife, of shy curiosity and longing hidden behind a sheet with a hole. And this sort of imagery is powerful, because, like all masters of the magic realism genre, it shows literally and uncannily what is astonishing and strange yet believed. Can one fall in love if their only contact is through glimpses of parts of the covered whole?
That is how I feel about Midnight’s Children -like Aziz, I take it in parts and walk away bewitched but afraid to return, feeling that I don’t, and won’t, know the whole story or ever attain real satisfaction. But today I come equipped with a glass of lemon water, and a new bookmark which makes me feel like an intrepid adventurer.