Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights is erudite without flaunting it, an amusement park of a pulpy disaster novel that resists flying out of control by being grounded by religion, history, culture and love.
Rushdie has a fractal imagination: plot buds from plot, endlessly. There are at least 1,001 stories and substories, and nearly as many characters. All you need to know is that they’re mostly highly entertaining, amusing and ingenious.
The new novel quickly becomes a breathless mash-up of wormholes, mythical creatures, current affairs and disquisitions on philosophy and theology. Behind its glittery encrustations, the plot resembles the bare outline for a movie about superheroes.
While there are flashes of brilliance, the narrative gets bogged down with repetitive ideas, dull patches and a confusing structure. Rushdie is a born storyteller with a seemingly inexhaustible storehouse of knowledge, but sometimes his postmodern antics and exuberant language are not conducive to easy, pleasurable reading.
Rushdie defends secularism without acknowledging how it has been long bound to the institutions and ideologies of capitalism and colonialism that are responsible for many of the ills of the globalized world that Rushdie diagnoses — violence, inequality, slavery, and ecological disaster.
The narrative choreography proves once again that while Rushdie is rightfully considered a world-class storyteller, the novel shines brightest in the panache of its unfolding, the electric grace and nimble eloquence and extraordinary range and layering of his voice.