Tuesday, March 17, 2009

"What Matters is Which Fiction You Believe"

We revere the ruby slippers because we believe they can makes us invulnerable to witches…because of their powers of reverse metamorphosis, their affirmation of a lost state of normalcy in which we have almost ceased to believe and to which the slippers promise us we can return; and because they shine like the footwear of the gods.” (East, West 92)

Different but similar – those are the first thoughts that came to mind after the reading of Rushdie’s East, West. Structurally, the story-telling format is similar to Chandra’s Love and Longing, but in having the work be ‘openly’ fictitious (in that this is a collective work of fiction), the stories seem to carry more weight in their underlying meaning. Just as Alex commented, Rushdie’s own self as a “translated man” translates well on his pages – the lines, (those) distinctions between East(ern) and West(ern) culture seem to be less and less clear. As we read in the Rushdie’s Imaginary Homelands, Rushdie feels that while something seems to get “lost in translation”, he clings “obstinately to the notion that something can also be gained” (Homelands, 17).

While it may seem ridiculous that bidders from all over the real (and “imaginary”) world are huddled in an auction room bidding for the famous ruby-red slippers of Dorothy, Rushdie seems to want us to ask “is it really [ridiculous] after all?” Yes, images of the ‘obsessed’ who are freaking out over these shoes (albeit, they represent an important part in the history of American film) – but, is this obsession any different than the moneylender in “The Prophet’s Hair” who, although has every artifact and relic he could buy, still wants more? Like the above quote mentions, the ruby red slippers somehow possess the ability to allow us to both recognize a “lost state of normalcy in which we have almost ceased to believe” and the “promise” that we can return to normalcy, and to home, like Dorothy. As Rushdie writes, “’Home’ has become such a scattered, damaged various concept in our present travails. There is so much to yearn for…are we asking, hoping for, too much?” (93). While the belief in the ruby-red shoes – that “limits of their powers… may not exist” (88) – remains strong, I think we should remember that these shoes are just a fiction, a figment of imagination. “Our own survival become...fictions…and fictions…are dangerous” (102), Rushdie writes; but to this day we still identify with our favorite (and timeless) movies and books. Maybe it just depends on which fictions we believe.

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