The Ground Beneath Her Feet
Salman Rushdie's latest novel suggests the vivid polyphony of a Hieronymous Bosch painting: every corner is crammed with ultrarealistic detail that slips into the absurd, if only for its density and vertiginous range of action. Mythic allusions and profane observations jostle for space against Rushdie's frantic map of transnational pop culture and rock 'n roll.
Vina Apsara, the Indian rock goddess who has captured the world's attention, is swallowed by a Mexican earthquake in the first few pages. After her untimely demise the book recounts what happened before, circling around Vina's fated relationship with lover/band-member Ormus Cama, as staged before a swirling backdrop of Bombay, London, and New York. Their mutual friend, photographer Rai, narrates Rushdie's retelling of the Orpheus myth. (In Greek legend the poet and lyre-player tried, without success, to free his dead wife Eurydice from the confines of Hades.) Just as Don DeLillo's Great Jones Street sought to examine the mythic role of rock stardom and American identity, Ground excavates notions of internationality, rootlessnesses, and the opening metaphor of the earthquake ? total upheaval of one's cultural and social terrain
Rushdie's polymath jog through Eastern and Western culture can be dizzying, perhaps tiresome; like every rock and roll epic, there's a lot of self-indulgent noodling on the star's instrument of choice. Rushdie's pontifications often obscure characters and plot, and an international hodge-podge of incidents loses a sense of cohesion found in his other novels.