Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Fact & Fiction

I felt as if the narration in Rushdie’s “West” section of East, West, questions the validity of the past and how it has been presented to us in the present. An important point is raised: “I offer no defense, but this: that these matters are shrouded in antiquity, and there’s no certainty in them; so let the versions of the story co-exist, for there’s no need to choose” (81). Are we to believe everything we read in history books? What is the line between fiction and non-fiction? Is there room for supposition?

In “Yorick,” Rushdie uses a common literary approach with his reinvention of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, as he enlivens the classic story in his own personalized manner. The narrator is very conversational and does not adhere to conventional means of plot or structure, as he criticizes and relives the famous tragedy: “…I interrupt myself, for there occurs to me a discordant Note: would any man, awakened from deepest slumber by the arrival on his back of a seven-year-old princeling, truly retain such a command of metaphor and classical allusion as is indicated by the text?” (67). The narrator questions the logic behind Shakespeare’s poetic style and literary genius, as he debunks the reality of Shakespeare’s fiction. Rushdie’s narrator spends a great deal of time with back-story and supposition, as he develops Shakespeare’s characters (for example, commanding that the Jester must have had a wife). Rushdie’s story does not strictly adhere to the original, as he glosses over what “the text” describes: “O, **********!, let me say the text begins to ramble, listing in gruesome detail all the crimes committed by the prince against the jester’s person” (71). He editorializes “a most lamentable lack of brevity, which we shall rectify here without delay” (71). Rushdie inserts comedy into the tragedy of Hamlet.

In “At the Auction of the Ruby Slippers,” the narrator and other bidders irrationally invest their own ideals and ideas of the past onto Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers. This will inescapably create a gap between what is real and what has been imagined—just as the narrator discovers his relationship with Gale: “I am aware that, after all these years of separation and non-communication, the Gale I adore is not entirely a real person. The real Gale has become confused with my re-imagining of her, with my private elaboration of our continuing life together in an alternative universe devoid of ape-men. The real Gale may by now be beyond our grasp, ineffable" (96).

It is that blend of fact with fiction that can create enlarged disparities between dream and reality, and "The permeation of the real world by the fictional is a symptom of the moral decay of our post-millennial culture" (94), which gives us a distorted image of ourselves and what we aim to accomplish. "Home has become such a scattered, damaged, various concept in out present travails. There is so much to yearn for. There are so few rainbows any more. How hard can we expect even a pair of magic shoes to work? They promised to take us home, but are metaphors of homeliness comprehensible to them, are abstractions permissible? Are they literalists, or will they permit us to redefine the blessed word? Are we asking, hoping for, too much?” (93). I think the definition of “Home” can become too idealized and too romanticized for our own good, especially when reflecting on the past. Such idealization brings falsities to what can be achieved. But without hope, what is there?

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