Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Midnight's Children pt. 2- Heap

Finding time to read has been tough lately. Halfway through the book and its already due back at the library. Where do these kids find the time?

Still, the books is holding strong, becoming more engrossing as time moves on, heaping on image after image that I can't get out of my head. A recent favorite- Bombay erupting into a war of languages, holding violent protests in order to see who rises to the top. What I'm starting to see, though, is that these images aren't just there for the sake of being there and sounding awesome- each one holds a very important part in the book, often coming back over and over again, creating this incredible line of linear moving motifs that are not always present, but revive themselves again and again. You won't hear about the authors musing on Snakes and Ladders for fifty pages, then, after carefully setting the scene over the course of a chapter, it all condenses in that image again. Truly beautiful writing craft on display.

Another thing that has been holding my attention is the use of time. This is the story of the narrator, being told at a time near his death. The thing is, its not just the story of his youth, its also the story of his here and now. His wife enters and leaves the pictures, struggling with his all consuming writing process, and holds a plot arc of its own. Its as important as the rest of the story, but is happening at the same time. Beyond this dual view, the narrator refuses to bow to a lack of knowledge on the readers part. He constantly makes references to things he hasn't talked about, forcing you to think about whether you read the last section closely enough while, at the same time, making you feel as if you never saw something you read ten pages ago. Its an incredible study in how to tell a story linearly and non-linearly at the same time. There's a development in character, an unveiling of his inner workings, but its not restricted to these workings being revealed by time. The come when they need to. Character first, story second, but they both hold their own.

I'm still having "Everything is Illuminated" flashbacks, but this book is doing exactly what Foer wanted to do five times better. Cultural history, beautiful imagery, fantastical character attributes that root themselves in reality, making them almost believable. I think the setting is what sets it apart. In India, Rushdie has the ability to pile on as much of this as he wants, overcrowding every page with as much stuff as he possibly can. Foer went for Eastern Europe, where the pacing would have been off. The setting in Illuminated held its own promise, and Foer lived up to it, but for a story that is both incredibly real and unreal at the same time, a place that seems like both as well is needed. India, at least for me, is that place. I'm incredibly ignorant of the country, but from what I know it sounds insane. Beautiful countrysides/mountain ranges placed alongside some of the most condensed and populated cities in the world. Coming from a person who finds Chicago to be WAAAAAAAAAY too much, I can't imagine what Mumbai would feel like. I think I would instantaneously just choke. My mind would go into some weird shock and I would die. So I guess I'll stay here and just read the book.

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