Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Review: At the Auction of the Ruby Slippers by Salman Rushdie

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This story is available online at Granta Magazine . I always have a hard time when reading satire and this appears to be one. I read it as a futuristic nightmare based around the auction of said slippers. The slippers presumably refer to those from The Wizard of Oz, and the story is a satire on consumerism, the free market economy gone mad where everything is for sale. Further than that I was completely lost on a first read.

The best explanation of this story I have read is by ROBERT COOVER in Nwe York Times and I quote -
"the story is a broad sociopolitical satire, a bit over the top at times, told by a communal "we" and depicting the current market-based free-for-all as a brutal futuristic hell wherein everything in the world is for sale, with the hoarding of possessions leading to universal paranoia: "These are uncompromising times," the narrator says.
Uncompromising times: Ayatollah Khomeini issued his notorious fatwa against Salman Rushdie on St. Valentine's Day 1989, and throughout the nearly six years since then Mr. Rushdie, a target not only of religious zealots but of professional killers hired by ecclesiastical thugs and heads of state, has remained in virtual exile from his national and literary communities -- indeed in virtual imprisonment, managing only occasional dramatic appearances on the world stage to plead his unique and desperate case.
"At the Auction of the Ruby Slippers" thus speaks directly to the author's own consequent dread of the bunker mentality, and to his fear of a world market economy that tolerates the intolerant, since it's all good for business (and it does so by way of a central metaphor close to his own heart as a writer).
THIS story was originally published along with an essay, "A Short Tale About Magic," in a small British Film Institute book as a kind of accompaniment to the film "The Wizard of Oz," which Mr. Rushdie describes as his "first literary influence" at the age of 10: "When I first saw the 'The Wizard of Oz' it made a writer of me." It was also his model during the writing of his remarkably cheerful post-fatwa novel "Haroun and the Sea of Stories" (1990): "Of all movies, the one that helped me most to find the right voice for 'Haroun' was 'The Wizard of Oz.' The film's traces are there in the text, plain to see; in Haroun's companions there are clear echoes of the friends who danced with Dorothy down the Yellow Brick Road."
Late in "At the Auction of the Ruby Slippers," there is a moment when the harsh impersonal satire shifts abruptly and somewhat discordantly into a first-person-singular account of a frustrated love affair between the narrator and his cousin Gale, who is lost to an imaginary and clearly uncivil lover who has escaped from a caveman movie. Gale, of course, is Dorothy's surname in "The Wizard of Oz," and as his loving cousin she liked to cry out during sex: "Home, boy! Home, baby, yes -- you've come home!" The narrator keeps a portrait of her "in the guise of a tornado."

HE sees her in a bar watching a television report about a spaceman stranded forever on Mars, showing "his slow descent into despair, his low-gravity, weight-reduced death" while he sings a medley of old songs, including several from "The Wizard of Oz." The narrator wants to buy Gale the auctioned ruby slippers (the universal reverence for them, he suggests, is due to "their affirmation of a lost state of normalcy") so she can go to Mars and bring back the spaceman, with whom he clearly identifies: "Perhaps I might even click the heels together three times, and win back her heart by murmuring, in soft reminder of our wasted love, There's no place like home." He has not only been left to waste away in enforced solitude on an inhospitable planet, he has also been threatened, in these uncivil times, with the loss of his most precious love, his hope, his "Over the Rainbow" muse. "

I read this story as part of Salman Rushdie's short story collection East, West. My Book Review

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