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East, West by Salman Rushdie
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East, West

by Salman Rushdie

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an anthology of short stories divided into three main sections, entitled "East", "West", and "East, West", each section containing stories whose topics center around their respective geographical areas (in the "East, West" section both worlds are influenced by each other).

East

Good Advice Is Rarer Than Rubies
The Free Radio.
The Prophet's Hair

West
Yorick
At The Auction of the Ruby Slippers
Christopher Columbus and Queen Isabella of Spain Consummate Their Relationship

East, West
The Harmony of the Spheres
Chekov and Zulu Sulu
The Courter
  bostonwendym | Mar 3, 2016 |
Rushdie is an author I've always wanted to read more of than I have. I'm mostly familiar with him through his children's novel, "Haroun and the Sea of Stories," as well as at least one novel that I read in herky-jerky bits and pieces during my 20s. I think it's entirely fair to say that Rushdie is one of those writers I always feel, snobbishly, like I *should* have read, and I've enjoyed seeing him interviewed and talking about other books and films. It finally dawned on me, then, that a short story collection like "East, West" might be my "way in" to a fuller appreciation of his work.

It's a challenging set of stories. What is immediately apparent is the mastery Rushdie has with the English language, because even the stories I didn't enjoy, content-wise, had a real flow that made them like music to read. I found myself wondering if Rushdie ever reads his own work aloud for audiences; in many cases, I felt like these would be even more of a joy to hear performed by the author. As stories, though, they were sometimes a little beyond me (hard as that is to admit). The collection is split into three sections - "East," "West," and "East, West" - with three stories in each. You can guess the thematic separation between these sections ("East" largely indicating India and "West" Britain). To be perfectly fair, most of the first six left me feeling a little distant, with probably "The Prophet's Hair" - which is rather like a mournful, bad-luck Indian fairy tale - the most engaging of the lot. However, I was surprised to find how much I enjoyed all three stories of the final section, each of them playing on themes as varied as infidelity, loyalty, and a shared love of the original "Star Trek" to find an interesting shared space between Indian upbringing and British culture. Those stories made my reading of the volume completely worthwhile.

Would I recommend the collection? Contrary to my original theory, I think these might come off better if you are already familiar with Rushdie's longer work. His stories are dense and literate, and I think if you know the patterns of his writing, they might be a little easier to engage. That said, I'm certainly glad I made the attempt. Reading "East, West" has made me want to move back toward Rushdie novels and give them a more determined try. This time, I'll be better prepared for the density, and I always like to read beautiful music. ( )
  saroz | Dec 22, 2015 |
East, West is good book, appropriate if you’re looking to fill a hole in your love of Rushdie, but for me, it will depend on how much I want to reread any of these stories six months onwards. And without that perspective, I’m not sure I can unequivocally recommend all of it. Check the book out of the library, read the second story in each section, and see of how you feel.
It was good, but not as good as other Salman Rushdie. Ultimately, I think it was just a little too ordinary. All of Rushdie’s excellent books have this intrusion of religion, or otherworldliness, that manages to seep through the texts. Whether it’s Machiavelli’s memory palace, Shalimar’s ability to walk on air, or Gibreel’s angelic status. Or even Haroun’s ability to tell stories, from a literal place of tales. Those miracles don’t come in to East, West, simply because of the length of the stories. Sometimes, some of them come close, but there’s no sense that the magic is actually intrusive, unexpected.
Take “The Auction of the Ruby Slippers”, one of the West tales in the saga. In it, the world begins to collapse in on itself, around the Ruby Slippers. Some want to buy them to go back to another time and place, one lost. Some people want to use them to escape, because time machines are space machines, and the slippers might even offer release from life itself. But none of that is emergent. It’s just the way that the world of the auction happens to go.
The largest exception to this comes in “The Prophet’s Hair”, the last of the East stories in the volume, where the miraculous discovery of a hair from the prophet Muhammad causes a great deal of changes in a single family, a confession of all sorts of sins and a total upending of the household order, a move from the western to the most strictly religious household that Rushdie has ever written. And in doing so, Rushdie actually manages to instill this magic again, transforming the story from a tale of morality into a tale of tales, an appropriate homage to his own work and the giants on whose shoulders he stands.
Not that the volume doesn’t deserve praise. Three stories were written for this piece exclusively, and one of them, “Chekov and Zulu” might be one of the best things I have ever read about the relationship of western popular culture to Indian livelihood. Chekov, you see, is a character on Star Trek. As is Sulu. But Zulu, that’s just a mispronunciation, taken by a boy, and his friend, as they all took on the personas, real and imagined, of Star Trek characters. They didn’t have the episodes to watch, just the ephemera, and seeing the effect of that on their lives is a sight to behold. ( )
  Vermilious | Feb 15, 2015 |
Enjoyed the Indian "East" short stories tremendously. Somehow did not relate much (actually not at all) to the "West" stories - somehow in those, felt he was trying too hard to impress when simple is what he does best - although since I've not read Rushdie before have no clue what he does best but that was my impression - that he was trying to capture an audience not familiar with him... Maybe I failed to see the message of the collection?. "Yorrick" just didn't seem to fit in with the other themes but maybe I was expecting far too much East and disappointed there was less.. Of the "West" stories only the auction of the "Ruby Red Shoes" pulled any chords with me. This does not put me off Rushdie - am glad I got a taste of him, though I will be more selective in choosing the next one of his. ( )
  velvetink | Mar 31, 2013 |
A fascinating curate's egg of a collection.

The first three "East" stories are disarmingly charming. My favourite story in the book is the first story "Good Advice Is Rarer Than Rubies", which is brilliantly simple, beautiful, romantic and unsurprisingly surprising; the very image of the principal character, on whom I think I have a bit of a crush. The following two stories are distinctly, charmingly, but very differently eastern - first "The Free radio" a modern parable with the bones of the dark side of India poking through and then "The Prophet’s Hair" which has that whole One Thousand and One Nights thing going on.

The second three "West" stories are, in sharp contrast, everything I dislike about smart-arsed english story telling in the knowing post magic realism world. They read like bad pastiches of Julian Barnes meets Tom Stoppard, ie "Yorick"; or of David Mitchell, ie " At the Auction of the Ruby Slippers" or Julian Barnes dumoing Stoppard for my mum ", ie "Christopher Columbus and Queen Isabella of Spain Consummate Their Relationship". All three were to me as bad as the first three were good. Did Rushdie write them partcularly badly to make some point about western literature?

But the last three "East meets West" are really the whole point of the book for me. All three explore the interaction of modern Western culture with ancient Eastern culture. All happen within the UK and within a very British society which is far more than just the backdrop - it is almost a character in the stories. I agree with the other reviewer that these three stories really do show Rushdie’s mastery of the language and are filled with wonderful prose. All that and a there is a sexy Mauritian in the book too.

If it hadn't been for the disappointing middle section I would be saying this is the best book of short stories I have read for some years. ( )
  anyotherbizniz | May 19, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
This sometimes poignant and intimate, sometimes boisterously inventive, sometimes gently provocative collection of short stories, formally wide-ranging though it is, is structured as a tight little syllogism. There are exactly nine stories, three each in three sections, with thesis ("East"), antithesis ("West") and a final synthesis ("East, West") wherein the twain do meet.
 
Though these stories are recounted with verve and wit and make for entirely enjoyable reading, they evaporate from the reader's mind seconds after reading. Their "surprise" endings are completely predictable; their philosophical subtext, nil.
 

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Rushdie, Salmanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dabekaussen, EugèneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Maters, TillyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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On the last Tuesday of the month, the dawn bus, its headlamps still shining, brought Miss Rehana to the gates of the British Consulate.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679757899, Paperback)

From the Booker Prize-winning author of The Satanic Verses comes nine stories that reveal the oceanic distances and the unexpected intimacies between East and West. Daring, extravagant, comical and humane, this book renews Rushdie's stature as a storyteller who can enthrall and instruct us with the same sentence.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:20 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Nine short stories reveal the vast distance and intimacy that exist between East and West, as well as the complex misunderstandings that both bind and separate them.

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