Comfortable and Furious



The ground shifts repeatedly beneath the reader’s feet during the
course of Salman Rushdie’s sixth novel, a riff on the Orpheus and
Eurydice myth set in the high-octane world of rock & roll. Readers
get their first clues early on that the universe Rushdie is creating
here is not quite the one we know: Jesse Aron Parker, for example,
wrote “Heartbreak Hotel”; Carly Simon and Guinevere Garfunkel sang
“Bridge over Troubled Water”; and Shirley Jones and Gordon McRae
starred in “South Pacific.” And as the novel progresses, Rushdie adds
unmistakable elements of science fiction to his already patented
magical realism, with occasionally uneven results.

Rushdie’s cunning musician is Ormus Cama, the Bombay-born founder of
the most popular group in the world. Ormus’s Eurydice (and lead singer)
is Vina Apsara, the daughter of a Greek American woman and an Indian
father who abandoned the family. What these two share, besides amazing
musical talent, is a decidedly twisted family life: Ormus’s twin
brother died at birth and communicates to him from “the other side”;
his older brothers, also twins, are, respectively, brain-damaged and a
serial killer. Vina, on the other hand, grew up in rural West Virginia
where she returned home one day to find her stepfather and sisters shot
to death and her mother hanging from a rafter in the barn. No wonder
these two believe they were made for each other.

Narrated by Rai Merchant, a childhood friend of both Vina and Ormus,
The Ground Beneath Her Feet begins with a terrible earthquake in 1989
that swallows Vina whole, then moves back in time to chronicle the
tangled histories of all the main characters and a host of minor ones
as well. Rushdie’s canvas is huge, stretching from India to London to
New York and beyond–and there’s plenty of room for him to punctuate
this epic tale with pointed commentary on his own situation:
Muslim-born Rai, for example, remarks that “my parents gave me the gift
of irreligion, of growing up without bothering to ask people what gods
they held dear…. You may argue that the gift was a poisoned chalice,
but even if so, that’s a cup from which I’d happily drink again.”
Despite earthquakes, heartbreaks, and a rip in the time-space
continuum, and it’s epic length, The Ground Beneath Her Feet may be the
most optimistic, accessible novel Rushdie has yet written.

My favorite section of the novel is when Vina goes to Manhattan and
meets every freak in show business at what falls just short of a sex
club while hanging with her manager. Some of the names and occupations
of the people she meets will blow your mind!

Buy it and take your time reading it. I suggest cherishing this novel
like an expensive box of chocolate because writing this phenomenal
doesn’t come alone every day.