Wide World Webs

Three Ways To Purée a Planet

For Rushdie, rock is kinfolk, a fellow invader of sacred realms. He asks, "Why defend impurity, that vice, as if it were a virtue?" And the answer is, because that's where he grew up: "The West was in Bombay from the beginning, impure old Bombay where West, East, North and South had always been scrambled like codes, like eggs." Mixing mythological pantheons as easily as he turns Atlantic founder Ahmet Ertegun into a blind Sikh nationalist, Rushdie glories in the confusion. The true artist, he insists, must be "polymathic, a master of anatomy, philosophy, mythography, the laws of seeing and perception; an adept of the arcana of deep sight, able to penetrate the very essences of things."

That it? Think he could program Gypsy compilations and record transglobal disco in his spare time? Like Vengaboys and The Gypsy Road, Rushdie's novel doesn't get at essences so much as tuck arms under everything it can grab, using fun to cover over its underlying animus. (There's a reason, after all, why his research has been restricted to aftershow parties with U2.) As literature, The Ground Beneath Her Feet breaks down when Rushdie tries to climax: like so many would-be rock novelists he piles on more layers of symbolism than any piddling musician could support (Vina is, roughly, Janis Joplin, Courtney Love, Patti Smith, Madonna, and Princess Diana), winding up with mushy opera. It's an oddly monotheistic conclusion for such a proud polytheist. But seen as pulp, the book's just fine. When it comes to the world's music, you can swim in the soup, drink it— just forget about ever figuring out the recipe.

Vengaboys appear at the Roxy May 19.

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