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Book Review: Haroun And The Sea of Stories

Note from Josh 1: I just got my second shipment of The Knot in. I’ll be signing and shipping them today. So if you’re waiting, it’s almost time. Thanks for your patience!

Note from Josh 2: Here is part one of an interview I did for Yusuf Clack’s awesome blog, A Better World Through Strong Dads

Many people only know of Salman Rushdie for one or all of these reasons:

1. He wrote The Satanic Verses, a (wonderful and non-Satanic but also non-flattering to Mohammad) novel which caused a fussy Ayatollah to issue a death sentence on the author, who went into hiding for quite a while.

2. He married Padma Lakshmi from Top Chef and subsequently was mentioned in People magazine here and there.

3. He was the subject of a Seinfeld episode

4. He wrote some lyrics for a U2 Song “The Ground Beneath Her Feet”

But none of these items come close to what I consider his greatest accomplishment– The “children’s” book:

Haroun And The Sea Of Stories

Have you ever read the Alice books? There’s Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland and Alice Through The Looking Glass. I read them both every few years. Even as a child, I knew there was a lot more going on in these books than met the eye. As I grow older, I become a different person. As I grow older, they become different books. And so I read them again and again.

I re-read Haroun the same way, for the same reasons.

In a nutshell, here’s the plot:

Haroun’s father, Rashid, is the greatest storyteller in the city of Alifbay. Then he literally loses his ability to tell awesome stories. Haroun discovers that there is an actual source of stories, and he goes on a journey to the Sea of Stories to put things right.

There’s a war. Battles. Drama! There is a lot of brilliant wordplay, which give me most of my major Alice associations. There are many moments where I laugh and many moments that remind me of things that I can’t quite get at.

There is perhaps nothing I enjoy as much as seeing an author as brilliant as Rushdie turn his big brain onto a children’s tale, unless it is the moment when I realize that it isn’t actually a children’s tale at all. Maybe.

Haroun can be enjoyed on many, many levels. Adventure story, a love letter to creativity and storytelling, an allegory to any number of things, a playground for anyone who likes linguistic stunts or games of “spot the reference/influence.”

Rushdie is a fan of Pynchon, Borges, and Lewis Carroll, and it shows.

Each time I read Haroun, I’m stunned anew by just how creative it is. My highest compliment for a writer is always this:

This book could only have come from the mind of__(insert author).”

There is a reason why nobody, in my opinion, really tries to imitate Salman Rushdie.

Because he’s that good.  I believe Haroun is his best. Academics love to yammer and disagree and use a lot of big words to prioritize Rushdie’s works.

Boo hoo. At its most simple, here is my most clear-cut Haroun and the Sea Of Stories Synopsis: It’s awesome.

Andi if you’re not sure where to begin with Mr. Salman himself, I’d start with Haroun, even though I love all of Rushdie’s “important” books as well.


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  • Yusuf April 29, 2010, 12:40 am

    I think WSL readers will really enjoy the interview! Rushdie was mistaken though in Satanic Verses. Not involved in much polemics myself, but for those history buffs or theologians that would like the full story behind the so called “Satanic Verses” you can read that here: http://www.islamic-awareness.org/Polemics/sverses.html

    • Josh Hanagarne April 29, 2010, 4:47 pm

      Thanks Yusuf. I’m also not a big polemic chap.

  • ami April 29, 2010, 7:19 am

    for a long time I have avoided Salman Rushdie b/c I’m a little suspicious of things/people/author that I first hear about due to hype – and my first knowledge of Rushdie came about based on the hype surrounding Satanic Verses. But your description makes it sound like he is right in the sweet spot for my literary loves – myths, vivid stories, and fables. So I have to get over my own prejudice and read this. (wonder how he compares to Amy Tan?)

    • Josh Hanagarne April 29, 2010, 4:47 pm

      Reading Twilight due to hype = no
      Reading Rushdie due to hype = YES:)

  • We Fly Spitfires April 29, 2010, 8:26 am

    Ah cool… I wasn’t sure if you’d shipped my copy or not. We’ve had that bloody volcanic ash cloud over Europe which pretty much halted air mail 🙁

    • Josh Hanagarne April 29, 2010, 4:48 pm

      Gordon, yours shipped this morning. Createspace takes a LOT longer to ship my books to me than they told me.

      • We Fly Spitfires April 30, 2010, 11:18 am

        No worries! Good things come to those that wait 🙂

  • Scott Hale April 29, 2010, 8:45 am

    I haven’t read Haroun, but I’m a huge Salman Rushdie fan. I knew nothing about him when I picked up Grimus a few years ago and I’ve made an attempt to read pretty much everything we has written due to the greatness of Grimus. Like I said, I haven’t read Haroun, but nothing I have read has compared to Grimus for me. It has similar elements you speak about Haroun – myth, adventure, parallels, etc. (it’s nearly impossible to wrap your head around the first… or second time through) – but I’ve never met anybody else that has read it. I’ll have to grab a copy of Haroun this week to see if I can find another Rushdie book that compares.

    • Josh Hanagarne April 29, 2010, 4:48 pm

      Scott, so many people hate Grimus. I think a second reading would do them all good.

  • Picsiechick April 29, 2010, 10:21 am

    Okay, you hooked me. I love the Satanic Verses and have read nothing else of his. I’ve spent my book budget for now, so I’ll put this on my list for the next cash injection.

    Hugs and butterflies,

    • Josh Hanagarne April 29, 2010, 4:49 pm

      Okay, but only because you already bought the only book that matters:)

  • Asatar Bair April 29, 2010, 4:49 pm

    Great book… it really gives you that sense of how much space there is in the imagination…