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The Ground Beneath Her Feet [Paperback]

Salman Rushdie
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (98 customer reviews)
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Book Description

May 9 2000
An epic romance that stretches across whole lives, and even beyond death, Salman Rushdie's most accessible novel and his boldest imaginative act is also a vivid account of the intimate, flawed encounter between East and West, a remaking of the myth of Orpheus, and an exploration of the extremities of comedy, culture and desire. The Ground Beneath Her Feet is a gripping story that encapsulates the history, dreams and passions of the last half century as no other novel has done.

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From Amazon

The ground shifts repeatedly beneath the reader's feet during the course of Salman Rushdie's sixth novel, a riff on the Orpheus and Eurydice myth set in the high-octane world of rock & roll. Readers get their first clues early on that the universe Rushdie is creating here is not quite the one we know: Jesse Aron Parker, for example, wrote "Heartbreak Hotel"; Carly Simon and Guinevere Garfunkel sang "Bridge over Troubled Water"; and Shirley Jones and Gordon McRae starred in "South Pacific." And as the novel progresses, Rushdie adds unmistakable elements of science fiction to his already patented magical realism, with occasionally uneven results.

Rushdie's cunning musician is Ormus Cana, the Bombay-born founder of the most popular group in the world. Ormus's Eurydice (and lead singer) is Vina Apsara, the daughter of a Greek American woman and an Indian father who abandoned the family. What these two share, besides amazing musical talent, is a decidedly twisted family life: Ormus's twin brother died at birth and communicates to him from "the other side"; his older brothers, also twins, are, respectively, brain-damaged and a serial killer. Vina, on the other hand, grew up in rural West Virginia where she returned home one day to find her stepfather and sisters shot to death and her mother hanging from a rafter in the barn. No wonder these two believe they were made for each other.

Narrated by Rai Merchant, a childhood friend of both Vina and Ormus, The Ground Beneath Her Feet begins with a terrible earthquake in 1989 that swallows Vina whole, then moves back in time to chronicle the tangled histories of all the main characters and a host of minor ones as well. Rushdie's canvas is huge, stretching from India to London to New York and beyond--and there's plenty of room for him to punctuate this epic tale with pointed commentary on his own situation: Muslim-born Rai, for example, remarks that "my parents gave me the gift of irreligion, of growing up without bothering to ask people what gods they held dear.... You may argue that the gift was a poisoned chalice, but even if so, that's a cup from which I'd happily drink again." Despite earthquakes, heartbreaks, and a rip in the time-space continuum, The Ground Beneath Her Feet may be the most optimistic, accessible novel Rushdie has yet written. --Alix Wilber --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Time and space, understood conventionally, have never been enough for Rushdie's antic imagination, and here he needs two parallel universes to contain this playful, highly allusive journey through the last 40 years of pop culture. Ormus Cama, a supernaturally gifted musician, and his beloved, Vina Apsara, a half-Indian woman with a soul-thrilling voice, meet in Bombay in the late '50s, discover rock and roll, and form a band that goes on to become the world's most popular musical act. Narrator Rai Merchant, their lifelong friend, is a world-famous photographer and Vina's "backdoor man." Rai tells the story of their great, abiding love (both are named for love gods: Cama as in Kama Sutra, and Vina for Venus), which thrives on obstacles. At first Vina is underage, and Ormus swears not to touch her until she turns 16; then, after one night of love, she disappears for a decade, returning only to rescue Ormus from a near fatal coma. While he swears chastity for a decade, Vina tests their commitment with a string of other lovers, of whom only Rai is kept secret. Ultimately, Ormus and Vina reenact the Orpheus myth, not once but twice. And this is only the heart of a plot whose action moves from Bombay to London to Manhattan. Rai's work as photographer underwrites meditations on 20th-century art and journalism. Rock and roll inspires endless fun, as Rushdie sprinkles lyrics into his narrative, and scrambles pop music names and historyAElvis Presley becomes Jesse Garon Parker, for instance. History is scrambled, too: Watergate turns out to be nothing more than a pulp thriller. The reader slowly discovers that the novel is set in a universe parallel to our own, and the characters catch glimpses of an alternate reality that looks more like our actual world. Despite many comic and dazzling passages, the hyperbole, the scrambled allusions and the parallel universes eventually become wearying. While not one of his masterpieces, this flawed giant is a spirited, head-spinning entertainment from a writer of undeniable genius. Agent: The Wylie Agency. Rights sold in Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the U.K.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars You talk too much, you worry me to death! July 20 2001
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
The difference between "Midnight's Children" and "The Ground Beneath Her Feet" is the difference between a long, fantastic novel that pulls you in and keeps you intoxicated throughout (MC) and a long, fantastic novel that doesn't know when to stop and wears you out long before it's finished (TGBHF). Since Rushdie uses some of the world of the former to populate and illustrate the latter, it's not an inappropriate comparison. The deft storytelling talents of Rushdie are still to be seen within the hackneyed plot, though, and that's what kept me reading t'il the end. But even then it's hard to give much of a rip about either Ormus Cama or Vina Apsara. This isn't 1972 and the notion of rock stars as tormented demigods went out with Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars. Say it's an entertaining read in spite of itself and go get "Haroun" or "Shame" for more potent examples of Rushdies considerable writing talents.
Oh, yeah, it's way, way, way, way, WAY too long!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Tiresome, Self-Indulgent, Pretentious Dud July 17 2001
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This one helps us understand the difference between proficiency in language and mastery of writing, between mechanical wit and humor, between being a smartypants and being wise. Rushdie definitely knows how to speak English, and he desperately wants us to know he knows. (Is this part of the Indian Anglophilia to which he often refers in the novel?) He is so enchanted by the sound of his own voice, and so impressed by his accumulated store of random facts, that he reminds us of a child who is so pleased with himself for having mastered tying his shoelaces that he can't stop accosting people on the street to display his prowess. Or of the girl who always sat in the front row and constantly raised her hand urgently, begging for the opportunity to answer every question. This novel has "Look at me! Look at me! Aren't I clever?" written all over it.
No, I'm not intimidated by long books, or by literary (or musical) allusions, or by experimental prose forms, but I'm bored to tears with big, fat books that got that way because the self-indulgent author has a bad case of verbal diarrhea and the editor doesn't dare tell him so. Constantly rambling off on tangents that do nothing to advance the story or even entertain us, Rushdie takes perhaps two hundred pages to settle into making some attempt to tell us the story his sometime-narrator (that is, the character who is supposedly telling us the story but couldn't possibly have acquired any knowledge of most of it) keeps informing us he's going to tell us, after he tells us lots of stuff that we don't much care about.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Editor Abandons Party Political Broadside Jan. 30 2001
By P. C.
Format:Paperback
As a musician for more than 20 years I looked forward to reading this one. A feast had been promised; a gentleman from The Times was quoted on the back cover (of the paperback) as saying this was "The first great rock 'n' roll novel in the English language". He should get out more; this work was out of tune almost from the opening riff. Imagine a book crying out for an editor. Imagine an author who lets his writing and writing technique get in the way of his story. Imagine a story with two main characters so obnoxious, shallow and lacking in humanity that it is almost impossible to either sympathise or empathise; a badly-drawn boy and girl. Imagine a so-called 'rock 'n' roll novel that fails to convey the raunchy, ball-busting, sweat stained, 'shout at the moon' essence of what rock 'n' roll is about.Imagine an author splattering his story with party political broadsides against corruption in India, but who conversely, and with some pride, takes us on occasional but unnecessary tours of Bombay - through the eyes of the story's narrator. The development of Vina and Ormus from obscurity to fame is tenuous, and involves none of the emotional impact you would expect when a couple of unknowns hit the big time. I wanted to be there with them; share the emotion; feel the vibe; but I couldn't get close. Despite the fact that we learn of Vina's fate in the first few pages, it gradually becomes apparent that Vina and Ormus never had a chance really; that the author had modelled them on the legendary and tragic Orpheus and Eurydice; that he had in fact abandoned them to destruction. And if the author doesn't care for his creations, then why should the reader? Read more ›
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars This guy's supposed to be a good writer? Dec 16 1999
By Lee
I found the characters completely devoid of life, and I've been subjected to Rushdie's endless seemingly profound hot air. He seems to have wrote most of this from his stream of consciousness, and I can recal nothing interesting had had to say. I stuck with him because I was shocked that this exalted author could so disappoint, but he was as bad at the end as in the middle. I've calibrated myself on "highbrow" stuff, and his ain't.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious Rushdie Novel Swept Me Off My Feet Sept. 11 2001
Format:Hardcover
_The Ground Beneath Her Feet_ is among Rushdie's best novels. The narrator, Rai, tells the story of Ormus Cama and Vina Aspara, his close friends, the world-famous rock stars (their group, VTO, is more popular than even the Beatles), and renowned lovers. He also tells of his own rise to fame as a photojournalist and his passion for Vina.
The primary theme of the novel is disorientation: the disorientation of global celebrity, the disorientation of uprooting yourself from your home country, and the disorientation of living in a world where you have a pervasive sense that "It shouldn't be this way" (which is also the name of one of VTO's greatest hits.) Rushdie cleverly borrows a page from science fiction and has this entire story take place in a parallel universe to our own, where Lee Harvey Oswald's gun jams, but the two Kennedy brothers are later assassinated simultaneously thanks to a maverick magic bullet, Jesse Garrison Parker sings the song of Elvis Presley, the group Simon and Garfunkel is a female duo consisting of Carly Simon and Guinevere Garfunkel, and VTO's album "Quakershaker (How the World Learns to Rock n' Roll)" consistently beats the Beatles' "Sergeant Pepper" in polls of the greatest rock album ever. As it turns out, this world is on a collision course with reality as we, the readers, know it, which causes an increasing number of violent earthquakes. What will happen when worlds collide? Ormus, who has some ability to see into the other world, is haunted by the possibilities.
The book is amazingly erudite, with references to everything from western and eastern mythology to rock n' roll history.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The best book of Salman Rushdie
The best book of Salman Rushdie.Great saga on over 50 years about the rock culture.
Published on March 22 2009 by Vlad Dercaci
5.0 out of 5 stars Labor of Love
There is only one thing I will concede about this book- that it is somewhat of a 'labor of love' -- it's no beach read. Read more
Published on Dec 18 2001 by lilmonster
4.0 out of 5 stars Good but too mythical
I really liked that book. The story was compeling,the characters are amazing and beautiful, butI have to say that I got lost a little in the other realm. Read more
Published on Nov. 22 2001
4.0 out of 5 stars Good but too mythical
I really liked that book. The story was compeling,the characters are amazing and beautiful, butI have to say that I got lost a little in the other realm. Read more
Published on Nov. 22 2001
5.0 out of 5 stars For The Fans
It's interesting to see other reviewers contrast Ground Beneath Her Feet with Midnight's Children, as my thoughts ran the same way. Read more
Published on Aug. 27 2001
1.0 out of 5 stars The Ground Beneath Her Feer
Wow, this book was awful and I love to read anything and everything. It was so bad I stopped reading it and I bought it at full hardcover price at the bookstore. Read more
Published on July 29 2001 by Victor Charlie
5.0 out of 5 stars Until now, Rushdie was a tease
Until this novel, Salman Rushdie was a tease. Yes, his words are musical and magical, inventive and playful. And yes, his characters are complicated and real. Read more
Published on June 27 2001 by David Bridgeland
3.0 out of 5 stars Good book, boring heroine
Maybe I am just too old to be infatuated by the world of Rock'n'Roll. Or too young? I am only half Mick Jagger's age after all... Read more
Published on June 10 2001 by Manuel Haas
3.0 out of 5 stars Tedious
Why did I feel compelled to read it? Maybe because the last Rushdie I read, and I've read them all, was "The Moor's Last Sigh"(his best). Now that was a good book! Read more
Published on Dec 5 2000 by happy
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