Posted by: Corri van de Stege | April 20, 2008

Some reviews

This week’s Observer has got a number of very interesting reviews.  There’s a long inteview with David Lodge, whose Art of Fiction and The Practice of Writing are always within reach on my table and bookshelf.  Of course, he’s also written those wonderful novels that depict English academia so nicely, the campus pieces and academic conferences in Changing Places and The British Museum is Falling Down.  All ultimately suitable for rereading, if ever I have the time!  The Observer interview is partly about his new book Deaf Sentence, which is now on my ‘to read list’.

There is also an almost as long review by Tim Adams under the title Tales of a fabulist traveller of Salman Rushdie’s new book The Enchantress of Florence .  I’m always slightly more reserved about Rushdie’s books, as after a while I have to force myself to stay on course, the stories are all his and I don’t always find it easy to make them mine.  It is as if he knows what he is talking about and it’s simply tough on the reader if they cannot follow him because they haven’t read all the background literature that he obviously absorbs before telling his stories.  Nevertheless Tim Adams is in awe of this Rushdie and this new book in particular ‘Stories are the essennce of Rushdie’s wild and whirling novel’ and ‘The overriding argument of The Enchantress of Florence is partly that western civilisation, to borrow from Ghandi, would be a good idea.  Superstition and despotism are not the preserve of the mystical East here, nor are enlightenment and humanism inventions of the classical West.  Each civilisatin has its fair share of beauty and folly, cruelty and benevolence.’  Put this way, the book becomes intriguing and so I will put it on my ‘to read list’ after all.

Then, happy to see my admiration last week of Granta is confirmed by Ruaridh Nicoll, who reviews a number of contributions in the 101th edition of this magazine-cum-book. 



  1. Hello. I was referred to your site by a friend and I am so happy to find myself here.

    The most recent Rushdie I picked up (sorry to admit) was The Ground Beneath Her Feet (late 90s I think). You have described the experience perfectly. I loved the book, loved all of the allusions, the writing, the story…but never finished it. I was simply unable to make the story my own, as you say; and Rushdie ‘failed’ (too strong?) to allow me to do so. How does he do this I wonder? Is it because, as you say, his stories are so entirely his? and what do we mean when we say this? and I also wonder, is there any possibility that this is a purposeful effect? I would have to think about this some more…but perhaps there is a final pushing away in his writing of the (colonialist?) impulse to glom on, to absorb, to make even the most different things somehow our own? Does this make any sense to you?

    In any case, thanks for such a thoughtful post. I see you post about many things that interest me; and your writing is very enjoyable to read. I will come back. TJ

  2. Hi toujoursjacques (what an intriquing name!) – nice to meet you and you are very very welcome. Look forward to seeing you around. I need to think about Rushdie potentially trying to tell us to keep off his territory. Nice thought… I shall also do some more thinking 🙂

  3. tjacques: just found a link to your blog: it had not come through on your initial response. So, for other readers, here it is:

  4. Thank you so much for your kind act to provide the link to my blog. I am so new at this and do not understand why sometimes it comes through and sometimes it does not. If you have any answers, please offer them.

    I maybe did not mean Rushdie was defending his personal territory by making difficult our absorbing the story as our own (but maybe you understood me well already). I think I mean that all cultural difference doesn’t have to end up feeling comfortable and familiar and, hence, easily digestible as equally “ours”. But, again, I need to think more on this. Thank you again for your gracious gesture. TJ (

  5. I’m a fan of Lodge too and that Observer piece definitely piqued my interest in “Deaf Sentence.” I look forward to comparing notes with you once we’ve both had an opportunity to read it.

  6. Kate – Yes, definitely.

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