A favourite end of year time-waster is looking at Best of lists compiled by writers I admire. If books appear on more than one list they must be really good. Surely.
Does the opinion of a Man Booker Prize winner count for more than a non-winner? Yes if it’s Anne Enright and the book is Christadora by Tim Murphy. Also counts that I’ve read it and liked it.
Does the opinion of a double Man Booker Prize winner count for double? Yes if it’s Hilary Mantel, not only because Mantel showed impeccable literary taste by loving the Cazalet Chronicles, but also because Maggie O’Farrell and Linda Grant, another two absolute faves, both had My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout on their lists.
Is it worth moving a book from an insanely long For Later shelf to a Holds list? Yes if it’s Geoff Dyer, who is such a great writer he can make you read a book about a film you’ve never seen. In this case even more worth it because the book is The Girls and it’s a re-imagining of the perennially fascinating Manson cult.
Alan Hollinghurst needs to be getting on with writing his own books, not reading and opining about other people’s, but he liked The Return and so did Julian Barnes, who knows what he’s talking about, so that might be worth a go.
If you have a touching belief in writers knowing what’s good and you need to add to your For Later shelf (and who doesn’t?) you might also try:
I love reading Salman Rushdie. He weaves the most colourful and beautiful stories, with a little magic shining through like gold threads. Transporting the reader to different cultures, countries and times, his stories often address current issues through the medium of fantasy.
Two Years Eight Months & Twenty Eight Nights is a fabulous tale of a War of the Worlds. If you can do the maths, this adds up to 1,001 nights in the Arabian Nights legends. The gates between Earth and Peristan (Fairyland) have reopened after thousands of years. Mischievous Jinn (Genies as we know them) are messing with human lives in terrible ways, in order to subjugate humans, or ultimately destroy us.
Rushdie adopts the role of Scheherazade, unfolding many stories like the Chinese box sent to poison the King of Qaf. Dark Jinn, creatures of fire, visit curses on mankind – rising curses to make people float above the atmosphere, crushing curses to kill us with gravity, infectious diseases and open attacks.
But Humankind have someone on their side. The Princess of Peristan, Aasmaan Peri; Skyfairy the Lightning Princess. Naming herself Dunia (The World), she fell in love with a human; the philosopher Ibn Rushd, the last time the gates were open. Dunia becomes mother to a race of humans who are part Jinn and part human, with latent powers waiting to be whispered into action to save the human race.
Ibn Rushd was a philosopher in ancient times. He really did have a feud with Ghazali of Iran (a champion of Islam). Ibn Rushd, an Aristotelian rationalist, believed in a kinder God and a less fanatical faith. Salman Rushdie’s father changed the family name to Rushdie to align himself with Rushd and his arguments against Islamic literal interpretation of the Koran.
This is the first book of Rushdie’s that I have really noticed an undercurrent of parable, between the fantasy story and the world of today. Rushdie’s narrator writes from a future Earth a thousand years after this historic battle: without religion, discrimination and war; making clear that the world has no use for “murderous gangs of ignoramuses (whose aim) is “forbidding things.”