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The Golden House: A Novel Hardcover – September 5, 2017
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An Amazon Best Book of September 2017: The events of The Golden House begin around Obama's inauguration and end in our current time--and it is a novel about our times--but it is also a story steeped in Greek tragedy and the history of cinema. Nero Golden is a wealthy immigrant with three sons who has moved from Mumbai to New York under mysterious circumstances. He takes up residence in a downtown mansion, where he acquires a beautiful Russian second wife (one could argue just as strenuously that she acquires him). Nero, his new wife, and his sons establish their respective places in New York society, and their stories are told through the eyes of Rene, an aspiring film maker who lives across the street and who becomes entangled in the rapidly unwinding drama of the Golden family. What follows is an entertaining and enlightening novel with much to say about modern America. This is a story with roots and antecedents stretching into the past, but it feels as relevant and timely as anything you'll read today. --Chris Schluep, Amazon Book Review
“[A] modern masterpiece . . . telling a story full of wonder and leaving you marveling at how it ever came out of the author’s head.”—Associated Press
“Wildly satiric and yet piercingly real . . . If F. Scott Fitzgerald, Homer, Euripides, and Shakespeare collaborated on a contemporary fall-of-an-empire epic set in New York City, the result would be The Golden House.”—Poets & Writers
“A tonic addition to American—no, world!—literature . . . a Greek tragedy with Indian roots and New York coordinates.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“A recognizably Rushdie novel in its playfulness, its verbal jousting, its audacious bravado, its unapologetic erudition, and its sheer, dazzling brilliance.”—The Boston Globe
“A joy to read . . . clever, intimidating, jocund, and electrifying.”—Chicago Review of Books
“The Golden House . . . ranks among Rushdie’s most ambitious and provocative books [and] displays the quicksilver wit and playful storytelling of Rushdie’s best work.”—USA Today
“From Nero to Obama, via The Godfather . . . The veteran novelist blends ancient history and myth with popular culture, crime caper and film techniques to fashion a morality tale for today.”—The Guardian
“Vivid and appealing.”—The Week
“A tale of identity, reinvention, truth (and lies), and terror, The Golden House captures the climate of American politics and culture from the Obama era to today.”—BuzzFeed
“The Golden House is a brilliant examination of the times we are living in today. A must read!”—PopSugar
“Rushdie writes with a Dickensian exuberance, always full of humor as well as striking scornful, tragic notes.”—The London Evening Standard
“Intelligent and darkly funny . . . with a raw political edge.”—The Times (UK)
“Powerful. . . . The great strength of The Golden House is Rushdie’s ability to balance the fairy tale tone of the story with gritty realities.”—The Toronto Star
“Ambitious and rewarding.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“A novel grounded in historical fact yet rife with Rushdie’s signature imaginative prowess.”—Library Journal (starred review)
“A ravishingly well-told, deeply knowledgeable, magnificently insightful, and righteously outraged epic which poses timeless questions about the human condition.”—Booklist (starred review)
“A sort of Great Gatsby for our time: everyone is implicated, no one is innocent, and no one comes out unscathed.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
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"The Golden House" is no different. The story is about an international family - father, three sons- and their move to a little cloister of houses in New York City. One of their neighbors takes it upon himself to chronicle their experience and the novel is told from his perspective.
To be completely honest, the story didn't interest me at all and I wasn't that invested in the characters, but I *was* invested in the writing. I'm usually a stickler for empathetic characters and solid plot but when the writing is wonderful, it can make up the difference.To me, Rushdie is a powerful novelist, not content to stick to any sort of genre or format within his writing. Some passages contain quotations marks to indicate speech, some do not. Some events are told in screenplay format, others in long winded speeches given by the oldest brother (who is on the autism spectrum and can recite details with ease.) The novel is dense, but it all sort of flows off the page effortlessly.
This isn't a book you dip in and out of, I don't think. I usually am forced to read pages of books when I get a little free time here and there. However, I had the time this past week to sit down for a couple of hours in the afternoons, and I found myself instantly drawn into the book and Rushdie's writing. I can't consider myself a Rushdie fan, simply because I don't think my reading style (grabbing pages when I can, a few minutes here, a few minutes there... sometimes not being able to read for a few days) suits his writing style, so I can't really compare how "The Golden House" compared to many of his other novels. But compared to what I've been reading the past few years, I'm pretty impressed.
This is the kind of book that makes me want to change my reading habits and spend more time reading good books instead of just dipping in and out of whatever is on my bedside table whenever I have some time.
Narrated by Rene Unterlinden, a cineaste/wannabe filmmaker, who was brought up in the MacDougal/Bleecker Gardens to which only the residents of the enclosing houses of those Village blocks have access. The big house belongs to the Goldens, tycoon widower with three sons (with a Russian gold-digger wife yet to appear) having made a precipitous and complete abdication from Mumbai. The sons have all chosen new names for their new American personae, taken from Greek and Roman mythology. That at least lessens Rushdie's normal predelection for cultivating superfluous mythological references, even though he does so here with his usual superb writer's craft, unfortumately without any of the impetus of passion. Even in his self-adulatory presentation at the Miami Book Fair in support of the book, he admits that he had taken the magical realism, all the genii and spirits in his writing 'as far as they could go'; though he may have intended a more real, reportage/historical context, and you’ve decided that you’ll proceed without spirits, we still need Spirit. That's the fault or perhaps, if I'm being generous, the intent behind Rene's avowed distance, embodied in his quoting of Christopher Isherwood: "I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking". Rene amends this for contemporaneity by going so far as to say he's probably a 'smartphone camera', one that does a lot of the thinking and ideation process autonomically. Rene even says, toward the end of the book, that instead of feelings, he references something in a film. Unfortunately, the cinematic references are not so astute, nor illuminating, surprisingly glib and facile. David Cronenberg's aesthetic ideal of the 12" floating cube as the best incarnation of the film camera (in itself a sort of bad knockoff of Altman’s ‘floating window’ camera aesthetic) and how to make a story from the exacting and limited and distancing device of Being A Camera, a mere witness. Fact is, Film is the true Gesamptkunstwerk, and it's not mere witness that makes a film, it's taking responsibility for every scrap in frame, every sound, every word, the music, the pacing. In Rene we have only the misguided aesthetic of that impersonal remove, that, even if intentional, merely results in a dispassionate tone making it impossible to empathize with this Dickensian cast of burlesque idiosyncracies: the father, Nero, after the last of the Caesars, the eldest son, HFA agoraphobe gamer and game-maker, the middle, artistic son, the youngest with Dionysian (though he prefers only to be referred to as D) gender identity conundrums, the scheming Russian gold-digger. In the end, it's very hard to care about them, or their portentously presaged downfall. Spoiler alert: Nero fiddles while...
It seems clearly intentional, all this distancing, when Rushdie himself seems to peek out from behind the curtain to give a few impassioned pages of outrage and disbelief as The Joker, the cackling green-haired white faced ultra-villain with unfortunate lack of Batman anywhere in sight (as his girlfriend quips "DC takes over D.C.") enters the Presidential fray. No guesses. But this comes 2/3 into the book, and feels like too little too late, and besides, Keith Olbermann is on this subject far more impassioned and eloquent. And speaking of too little too late, we finally get an overlong history of India's Underworld, from which the Goldens beat their hasty retreat westward. I guess with all the foreshadowing of the deep dark and tragic secrets we've been supposedly salivating for, we just don't care.
Does it really take such a smart man to write such a stupid book?
Then again, maybe it's me: maybe my standards have been raised coming to know in recent months Clarice Lispector, Javier Marias, Michel Houellebecq in their entirety. Reading the latest installment, Volume 5 of Mark Z. Danielewski's The Familiar was a similarly exhalting experience. Even Keith Olbermann's Trump Is F-ing Crazy was the kind of reinvigorating read I'd always thought was Rushdie's metier. Again, I point out his writer's craft as being unsurpassed: the wielding of words is not what is at issue here with my dismissal of this book's thorough miscalculation of narrative style and lack of substance, lack of humanity; which I dearly hope is an aberration on his part.
I am struggling to finish it. Highly unusual for me.
Fans will enjoy Rushdie's writing.
Those who haven't read Rushdie would be better served reading any of his other books!
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