Since I moved and found myself with a 2 hour commute daily, I’ve been getting a lot of reading done. I’ve always liked reading, of course, but being an English major with an abnormally slow reading pace often meant that I didn’t have the time for pleasure reading after I’d finally finished all of the assigned stuff. But all that has changed, and I’ve been working my way across my bookshelf, finally getting to all those volumes I bought and never read.
Last week, I finally got around to reading Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie, which my little brother recommended and then subsequently bought for me and my mom last Christmas. I’ve tried to read Rushdie before; a brief-lived and ill-fated attempt at the Satanic Verses, on the recommendation of the ever-precocious Emily who had been fawning over it for months. I remember having high hopes for it, as it opened on two characters falling inexplicably from the sky–just the sort of randomness I like in a novel. Unfortunately, the next several pages proved entirely too dense, as (and my recollection is shaky here, so I could be entirely wrong) the two characters proceeded to engage in a lengthy and intricate discussion, leaving me to wonder “when the hell are they going to hit the ground already???”
But Haroun was nothing like those few pages I read of the Satanic Verses. Of course, that’s to be expected from a book written for a child (Rushdie wrote it for the benefit of his son, who was still pretty young at the time). The story is quite simple and reads more like a fairytale than anything, with a few cues taken from the Wizard of Oz (“And you were there…and you…and you!”). The most remarkable thing about it, though, is its surprising complexity in terms of ideas. As you might expect from the title, it is primarily about stories–namely, what they’re really worth in the real world. I don’t want to give any plot points away, as it is definitely a book everyone should read, but it focuses on Haroun, the son of famed storyteller Rashid, also known as the Shah of Blah. After his mother leaves them, Rashid loses his ability to tell stories, and Haroun has to go on a journey to get it back for him, as well as learn the true value of fiction in an often too-sad world.
If I had to describe this book in one word, it would be “delightful.” I highly recommend it.
“Straight answers were beyond the powers of Rashid Khalifa, who would never take a short cut if there was a longer, twistier road available.”