Rushdie's self absorption, understandable on a human level as someone captive to protective custody for years, still makes for miserable reading. I kept waiting for an eloquent, stirring rebuke to the forces of ignorance in the world, a call for each of us to have the courage to stand up to ignorance, but the book was mainly diary excerpts of the quotidian. Who slighted him, who supported him, what indignity he suffered, what famous person he met, what marital indiscretion he indulged in, how crazy his ex-wives were -- this is 90% of the book, and it was not any more satisfying, though a little better told, than if it were the memoir of my uncle Jack, the alcoholic celebrity chaser. I kept waiting for the arrival of 9-1-1 in the narrative, thinking that is when it would take off, but September 11th just becomes an I-told-you-so coda.I have a lot of sympathy for what Mr. Rushdie endured, but this book is dreary.
I never read any of his fiction, and always harbored an interest, but this mess of a book has given me pause.
The security guard who on his birthday gets drunk at the local pub and blurts out his identity.
Sure. Rushdie can turn a phrase, and shows the descriptive skill of someone who has been writing for a long time. Other moments, though, like his comparing his ex-wife's lover to Donald Duck in a long riff, make one cringe,
I read Leckie's "Helmet for My Pillow," a very personal account of his experience on Guadalcanal, and was interested in his more formal writing. Leckie was a sportswriter before entering the Marines, and he seems to have found his life's work in writing about war. "Helmet" is all foreground, a careening memoir of goldbricking, insubordination, miserable conditions, bacchanalia while on leave in Australia, and occasional valor. Chance and boredom and resentment of authority are mixed with fear and heroism.
"Challenge for the Pacific" has a human thread throughout, giving life to the cultures -- American, native, and Japanese -- that collided on the island, but it also provides historical context and the arc of battle. It is well-organized, researched, and written. Leckie tells an objective story here, but one remembers that he was there when he describes the emotions of the Marines when they finally left the island, a small moment that no ordinary historian could have captured.
I want to read more of Leckie.
I notice the split between male and female readers in the list of reviews. I read a lot and am always curious about the female perspective. I read this book as a young man in the 70's, vaguely remembered enjoying it, and thought I would take another look at it from the distance of decades.
Now I think its appeal to me as a young man was the titillation of hearing a woman describe sex partners in frank, colorful ways. Isadore's conflict of adventure versus security is timeless, but the context of the narrative is so dated, and today we have so much more nuance in the discussion, that I was bored. The narrator's self-absorption, the step-by-step description of her passage through a crooked corridor of mirrors, seemed adolescent. The long side-passages that were unconcerned with pleasure, like describing how the narrator rediscovered her Jewish heritage while living in Germany, were glib and shallow to a mature reader.
Evem after "skimming" the audio, I just couldn't get through it.
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