Thursday, May 17, 2012

Shame

What do you say about a writer who is brilliant at his work, but uses it to highlight and exaggerate the negative aspects of life? I say its a shame. Its a shame that someone with Salman Rushdie's exceptional writing skills can't employ them in constructive writing. Instead, he chooses to write about the problems in the societies he used to inhabit. This most depressing aspect of his writing is most evident in this book, titled quite aptly, Shame.

The book is an encyclopedia of everything that could be wrong in life. It seems to challenge all concepts of decency and goodness in men (& women). By the end of the book, you lose all hope in mankind. Rushdie seems to delight in pointing out everything that is wrong with the world. There is a fine line between realism and championing negativity, and Rushdie crosses it far too often in this book.

I firmly believe that art's main purpose is not to reflect reality, not to show humankind and society the way it is, but rather the way that it should be. An idealization of life. To portray the best that we can be. This is the reason I love Michelangelo's sculptures & paintings. They show man as he should be - strong, proud and flawless. That most beautiful of human creations, the Sistine Chapel, shows you the heights man can reach at his most inspired best. But I digress.

What I'm trying to say is that Rushdie's endless tirade betrays the purpose of art. Instead of showing what could be, Rushdie tells us what was, and how disguting it was. Instead of talking about what should be, he talks about everything that should never be. Its not just a reminder of the evils perpetrated by some people, but a magnification of these until you feel that its all that mankind is capable of. What purpose does it serve, I wonder? Besides reminding the smug literary-elite that eastern society is messed-up. A most disappointing & depressing book!

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