I think Red Room Library has met its first retraction:
Although The Enchantress of Florence was listed as one of the new and good books for June, this is no longer the case. Despite Rushdie's fame as one of the best writers of our time, the RRL is going to have say that this book is a stinker.
John Sutherland prepare to eat curried book.
The novel opens with a mess of an introduction. It's not even pretty. The sentences are long, confusing, and I don't really care that the boy riding around the lake has golden hair. Whatever, I say to myself, this is Rushdie, and we must wait for the brilliance. I kept waiting. I waited until I turned to the final page, and I can tell you, there was no brilliance.
Rushdie makes the profound and (gasp! original) statement that we are all alike. Prostitutes in Italy are the same as prostitutes in the MidEast. Rulers, women, men, sorcerers, and cheats are the same in both countries. Duh. I could have told you that. The Enchantress of Florence ends up being a beautiful Arabic woman who seduces all around her (including her 'mirror,' her servant who looks just like her...it just gets weird) and leaves them all feeling happy. Nice. Meanwhile, back at the ranch - the Sultan's palace - the great Sultan is trying to figure out why he no longer loves his wife WHO IS A FIGMENT OF HIS IMAGINATION and no else can see. Hmm. Seems like an easy fix to me: if she's a figment of your imagination, and you can't see her, there's nothing to love. Maybe he's selfish? Maybe he's delusional? Maybe he's on drugs? Maybe this is just a bad book.
Plus, to add to my real consternation, the prose was just a bad regurgitation of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's beautiful and lilting language.
Let me say that there are books out there that divide readers into two camps: one large camp that is dancing behind the naked Emporer and one small camp that is the bewildered child in the crowd, trying to figure out why everyone isn't horrified at the Emporer's naked, hairy arse. The folks in the child's camp are often few in number and fairly quiet. Who wants to be the loud mouth who's wrong? So, they say nothing and let the other idiots marvel at the beautiful brocades that don't exist.
Sometimes books come along that mean nothing, but to say so would mean that others might call you stupid. You might run the risk of being ridiculed for "not getting it." Just remember John Sutherland and his curried book business.* Though there is plentiful room for personal opinion, it just seems hard to imagine that anyone could actually wade through this book, let alone like it.
*I was excited to read Enchantress because John Sutherland said that "if this book does not win the Booker [he] will curry his review copy and eat it."