Friday, July 8, 2011

Friday First Sentence & Fifty-Six: Haroun and the Sea of Stories Review (briefly)

Apparently, it's a man's week.  And a week of 'classics' too.  I'm reading War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, Roots by Alex Haley, Siddhartha by Herman Hesse, and Favorite Sons by Robin Yocum. But wait: there's one more to add to my list, and it's my favorite:

There's Haroun, riding Butt the Hoopoe.
For language play and fun, fun, fun you can't do better than this staple in my read-again-and-again pile.  It is, of course, Haroun and the Sea of Stories, the 'children's' book written by Salman Rushdie in 1990.  And the opening line presages the language play of things to come:
There was once, in the country of Alifbay, a sad city, the saddest of cities, a city so ruinously sad that it had forgotten its name.  It stood by a mournful sea full of glumfish, which were so miserable to eat that they made people belch with melancholy even though the skies were blue.
Rushdie penned this allegorical novel about the energy of language, the transformative power of a son's love for his imperfect father, and the dangers of 'khattam shud' - in this context, silencing others - for his own son, from whom Rushdie was estranged while he was in hiding from death threats, including the fatwa pronounced by the Ayatollah Khomeini.  Despite the dire circumstances, this novel is decidedly light-hearted (in the main) and full of the sort of humor both young boys and adults of all notions can enjoy.  I've read it at least half a dozen times and return to it when I need a lightening of my reading heart, but with depth of soul. 

On page 56, Haroun calls upon Iff, the Water Genie, to help restore the storyteller's gifts to his father: Rashid Khalifa, the Shah of Blah, the Ocean of Notions.  It's a simple matter of plumbing, apparently:  Rashid Khalifa maintains a subscription to the Sea of Stories whose magical streams course through pipes and into the bathtub, when all is well.  But all is not well.  Khalifa's wife, Haroun's mom Soraya, has left him for a less fanciful man, and he can no longer remember his stories.  And so, the pipes won't run and Iff pops by to try to fix them:
  "The Disconnector", the other pointed.  "Hand it over, return to sender, restore to rightful owner: give up, yield, surrender."
   Now Haroun noticed that the tool he held was no more like a monkey wrench than the blue-beard's head was like an onion: in other words, it had the general outline of a wrench, but it was somehow more fluid than solid, and was made up of thousands of little veins flowing with differently coloured liquids, all held together by some unbelievable, invisible force.  It was beautiful.
If you haven't yet read Haroun, you'll find it a lively summer read, and it's readily available just about everywhere. 

Now why not relax at the end of a long week by sampling a few more "Book Beginnings" and 'Friday 56' peeks at your next great reads?

MFB,
L

p.s.  Don't forget:  Poem In Your Post Blog Hop this (and every) weekend.  Just post a poem and link up here to share the language-love!

9 comments:

pagesofjulia said...

Cute! I especially like the "sea full of glumfish." I didn't know about this children's book by Rushdie! Thanks for sharing.

Brenna said...

This is one of my very favorite books! I'm glad you featured it. I feel like there aren't many readers who are aware of this awesome story.

fredamans said...

This is definitely a book I would read! Thanks for participating!

Rikki said...

This sounds like a great book, will look into it...

I'll be curious to know what you thought of Siddharta. I like Hesse a lot but have never read that specific book.

Laurie said...

Julia - And just this year Rushdie wrote a second children's book, this time for his younger son: Luca and the Fire of Life.
Brenna - And yet another favorite in common: I'm not surprised, but glad!
Fredamans - So happy to participate, and hope you'll enjoy Haroun.
Rikki - Well, I enjoyed Siddhartha more than I thought I would. This is my third read of it, mainly because I may teach it next year. An interesting spin on the story of Siddhartha Gautama, through Hesse's eyes. If you like Hesse and are at all interested in Buddhism, it's well worth your time.

Irene said...

Well that's an unusual choice. Thanks.

Katy said...

I haven't read anything by Rushdie so far, and I'm kind of liking that beginning.

Thanks for participating in Book Beginnings!

Hip Hop Recording said...

I'm sure you enjoyed War and Peace. It looks like you enjoyed reading Haround and the Sea of Stories.

Laurie said...

Irene - Funny: I never thought of Haroun as unusual, just wildly imaginative and fanciful. Thank you for hopping by - I enjoyed your blog too.
Katy - Thanks for hosting! Your opener was equally intriguing.
HHR - I'm only 1/8 of the way through with War & Peace, but I do rather like it so far, daunting as the length is...

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