Wednesday, 29 February 2012

East, West

by Salman Rushdie

From the Grand Master of pretentious prose comes this collection of unexpectedly charming short stories. I think Sir Salman wasted his time and talent writing novels.

Mind you, not all stories are equally good. Take Yorick: easily the worst of the nine, both story- and style-wise, demonstrating — to quote the author himself — “a most lamentable lack of brevity”. And At the Auction of the Ruby Slippers — not much of a story, innit? My favourites are Good Advice Is Rarer Than Rubies, The Prophet’s Hair and The Courter.

‘You’re a Grand Master,’ I repeated, still in a daze. Then in a moment of horror I remembered that I had seen the name Mecir in books of classic games. ‘Nimzo-Indian,’ I said aloud. He beamed and nodded furiously.
‘That Mecir?’ I asked wonderingly.
‘That,’ he said. There was saliva dribbling out of a corner of his sloppy old mouth. This ruined old man was in the books. He was in the books. And even with his mind turned to rubble he could still wipe the floor with me.
‘Now play lady,’ he grinned. I didn’t get it. ‘Mary lady,’ he said. ‘Yes yes certainly.’
She was pouring tea, waiting for my answer. ‘Aya, you can’t play,’ I said, bewildered. ‘Learning, baba,’ she said. ‘What is it, na? Only a game.’
And then she, too, beat me senseless, and with the black pieces, at that. It was not the greatest day of my life.

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