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Fact or Fiction?

Salman Rushdie's Fury

Maybe aging does make you wistful and, as each year passes, you begin to assess your life more and more. Author Salman Rushdie seems to be looking back at the last 55 years of his own life, at least that's the impression you get from reading his latest novel, Fury, which explores the (mid)life of a quasi-fictional character, Professor Malik "Solly" Solanka, as he reaches a crossroads in his own 55-year-old existence and enters into his "silvered years."

At times the book feels like a warped autobiography. Are you reading about Rushdie's alter ego or about a fictional character? Solly is a professor cum doll maker with anger-management issues. As a result, he has left his loving wife, Eleanor, and young son, Asmaan, in England in order to flee to New Yawk City and stew in hermetic celibacy.

In New York, the professor becomes inadvertently involved with two very young women: Mila Milo, an Eastern European hipster with "Daddy" issues and Neela, a beauty of goddess-like splendor (read: Padma, Rushdie's real-life love interest to whom the book is dedicated). Through these two love interests you learn of the professor's past, particularly the crux of his problems, his creation, "Little Brain."

Little Brain, a streetwise doll that evolves from a cult figure on late-night public television into a global sensation of Britney Spears proportions, is the main symbol of the book. What was once Professor Solanka's salvation becomes the bane of his existence; his creation turns against him and becomes everything he had despised, feuling the anger the Professor seems to have a difficult time controlling, the anger that, in part, adds to the novel's title.

But Rushdie also writes of the growing fury of the world around him, the moneyed frenzy that was New York City during the economic boom. It's almost eerie how he predicts inevitable disaster. The doll, of course, represents Rushdie's infamous novel Satanic Verses, which also turned into a creation out of his control. Indeed, most of the book seems to be Rushdie's attempt at exploring the events in his own life.

As a result, the strange plot feels like it's merely slapped on for effect. Fury tries to do too much at once. It's a searing cultural and social critique full of pages of pretentious bullshitting and phrase dropping of anything sounding French, Greek and/or intellectual, and a story about a professor struggling with his demons and a fairy tale and an autobiography.

Furthermore, a professor turning into a doll maker is too farfetched even for a work of fiction. Was Rushdie stoned when he thought up this premise? While reading Fury, images of the author sitting on his couch in a wife-beater, munching on junk food pop into my head. Despite sharp writing and a semi-interesting story, Fury was a disappointment, especially compared to most of Rushdie's other work.

Fury: A Novel
By Salman Rushdie
Hardcover - 259 pages (September 2001)
Random House; ISBN: 067946333X

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