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Inwardness becomes irrelevant: the artwork’s chief interest resides in how it is put together and how it is staged. Literary Modernism and Musical Aesthetics leaves a reader wanting more. The final chapter cries out for a companion study of John Cage’s Europeras 1-5 (1987-1991). After the sections on Wagner, Mallarmé, and Pater but before the chapter on Pound, there is a golden missed oppor­ tunity for a study of T. S. Eliot. There is also the question of how Bucknell would extend or alter his arguments when grappling with such later but relevant figures as John Ashbery, Steve McCaffery, and Jackson Mac Low. How, too, would he tackle such troublesome postmodern works as Samuel Beckett’s and Morton Feldman’s monodrama Neither (1976), or Yoko Ono’s hybrid poem-scores in Grapefruit (1964)? Works of academic criticism rarely make a reader impatient for a sequel; there are few higher praises available to a reviewer. Brian Reed University of Washington RogerY. Clark. Stranger Gods: Salman Rushdie ’s Other Worlds. Montreal: M cGill-Queen’s UP, 2001. Pp. 248. $60 cloth. Roger Clark’s Stranger Gods approaches Rushdie’s novels from an entirely fresh angle; instead of postcoloniality, hybridity, migrancy, postmodernism or magic realism, the standard topoi of Rushdie criticism, he considers the religious cosmologies and myth structures that underwrite the narratives. Rushdie is so commonly identified with the secular that critics tend to forget how much the magic of his magic realism has to do with prophecy and Apocalypse, and with such figures as Satan and Shiva. Clark locates Rushdie among the Sufi poets Farid ud-Din Attar, Jalal ud-Din Rumi and Omar Khayyam rather than in the more usual company of Grass, Garcia Marquez and Sterne. In other words, Clark reads Rushdie as Frye reads Blake. Such an approach produces powerful readings, especially of Grimus and The Satanic Verses. Clark’s text has the disadvantage, however, of making Rushdie seem more like Blake than he actually is. Clark goes farther than any other critic in claiming aesthetic merit for Rushdie’s first novel, Grimus, and in the process gives what is likely to be the definitive interpretation. In particular, he explains how Rushdie 196 Iten Kortenaar can be genuinely interested in Sufi mysticism and yet always alert to the dangers of making political use of religion. Clark grants that Rushdie is uncompromisingly secularist— he wants no part of religion in politics— but feels “All of this does not necessarily mean that Rushdie is against Islam or Islamic values, or that he cannot see any way to accommodate Islamic values under the rubric of a secular society” (104); the “mockery” of reli­ gion “is aimed at the abuse of religion rather than at religion per se” (83). Clark’s Rushdie often promotes the mystic over the material, though never the orthodox over the heterodox. Clark is, however, too ready to read allusions to religious cosmolo­ gies as endorsements of the sacred. Because the novel’s final scene of lovemaking and destruction occurs on top of a mountain which is at once Shiva’s Kailasa and Attar’s Qaf, Clark reads it as pointing to a hopeful postcataclysmic fate compatible with Hinduism and Sufi mysticism, a fate that is not, however, actually shown. In the novel a God-Object, Grimus’s Rose, must be destroyed. Clark interprets this to mean not that God must be destroyed, but that any notion of an anthropomorphic God must be destroyed because it will be abused, leaving open the notion of an unat­ tainable or mystical God. I am not fully convinced by the distinction. Because he considers only the meaning that accrues from religious allusion and ignores all other aspects of the narrative, Clark’s readings are often idiosyncratic and occasionally misreadings. For instance, in finding in Midnight’s Children a mythic pattern that involves a loss of Eden and a desire for mystic union, Clark privileges relatively minor items in most readers’ experience of that work. Aadam Aziz’s father is visited by thirty species of birds, an echo of the thirty birds in Attar’s poem and therefore a symbol of transcendent unity. Clark assumes Aadam Aziz the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1913-4835
Print ISSN
0317-0802
Pages
pp. 196-199
Launched on MUSE
2019-04-03
Open Access
No
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