I finally got around to Mr.Rushdie’s very first novel – after putting it off for the longest time. The critics weren’t exactly kind towards it and, personally, I can’t blame them. From my own (very limited) experience, I found that in an author’s very first novel you can see the seeds of his future work – not just as themes and motifs, but as style and direction – enough to know what you’re in for next time you come across his name on a bookshelf. Now, had Grimus been the first of Mr. Rushdie’s works to have crossed my path, I don’t think I would have ever opened another of his books.
In fact, I like to think of Midnight’s Children as his first, because it’s also representative for his particular brand of magic(al realism). Grimus is, sadly, nothing but a melting pot of mythological references and scifi (I was about to say “crappy scifi” but it occurred to me that I wouldn’t really know what qualifies as “crappy scifi”. So, tell me, does an alien creature in the shape of a rock – and with the physical proprieties of said rock – but deemed as the most intelligent life form in the universe, qualify as bad scifi? If it were in a movie, I know I’d change the channel.)
But the poor Grof (see, they look like stone frogs and they think in anagrams. So, of course, Grof.) is not my only beef with this book. My first and most important one is the lack of subtlety and of naturalness. Flapping Eagle, our hero is sketchy and superficial, Virgil, is guide on Calf Island, is an obvious symbol, giving away the limitations of his role from the start.
I know I sound terrible disappointed – but I’m really not. I sort of knew I shouldn’t expect too much of this novel – and there were interesting concepts in it (my favorites: the parallel dimensions and the parallel histories and existences of the same place; the fact that all the immortal inhabitants of Calf Island come from the same time, but from such different dimensions and “the way of K”), but to me it wasn’t surprising and not even that thrilling or gripping. I’d recommend it so someone who wants to go through all of Mr. Rushdie’s work – but certainly not as a read on which to base a general opinion on the writer 🙂