Jo of Bibliojunkie threw out the idea of a read-along for Midnight's Children, a book that was and is celebrated as an amazing piece of literature, winning not only the 1981 Booker Prize, but also the Best of the Booker (which really should be called the Booker of Bookers) in 1993 and 2008. Clearly, there are quite a few people who have some good things to say about this title from the author of the Satanic Verses.
I'd first read this book back in 1999, if memory serves, and thought it was superior to Rushdie's better known (and more controversial) novel that put him into hiding for some time. Jo's read-along gave me a good excuse to revisit it.
Before diving back into the book, I thought I'd post some impressions that I had about the novel in the first place, to see if my memory would hold up under one of my rare re-reads.
I guess the first thing that comes to mind is the comparison to Satanic Verses. Both have elements that I (perhaps incorrectly) think of as magical realism, where the narrative stays grounded in reality but has some things about it that just can't be explained by ordinary rules. They also both show the tension within India of its major religious populations. I'm still not sure why one book caused a stir and the other did not, but perhaps it's just because I grew up during the Verses flap that I know more about the reception Rushdie received. Checking around, however, and recalling my discussions of the novel in college, I don't remember seeing much about Midnight's Children being offensive. What a difference a decade makes, I guess. One of the things I'll be reading for is to see if there is as much religious commentary in the book as I seem to think there is, based on my hazy memory.
The second thing that I remember is that the book takes a lot of twists and turns in getting to its point. I read a fair amount of experimental fiction in college, but not so much now. I'll be curious to see if I still find an appeal in the confused structure of the narrative. I do remember this book having a very satisfying payoff at the end, and that Satanic Verses did not. If memory serves that's why I tend to think of this one as the better book.
Beyond that, I don't recall much of the book. It's in my memory with pleasant thoughts, despite being part of a class that I ended up hating with an instructor who did not like me one bit. But memory is a tricky thing, as Rushdie himself will tell you in his books. I don't often do a re-read, but Midnight's Children seems like it's worth the effort and the use of my time. I'll be curious to see if I still feel the same way after starting on the book this week.
It's also notable that I only read one Rushdie book after this, and did not think it was all that good. I don't even remember which one, which is sad (and part of why I now have a book blog). One of my goals is to use this re-reading as a gauge to see if it's time to revisit Mr. Rushdie's work, or to move on to other authors. Lord knows there's plenty to go around.
Want to join in the read-along? Find the opening post here, on Jo's blog.