The Golden House

Salman Rushdie (The Satanic Verses) is a writer who takes the spirit of the age and splays it in a million dazzling ways. In his novel The Golden House, the zeitgeist is terrifyingly familiar. Americans, their bigotries, their horrors, as well as their aspirations and humanity, are deconstructed and reconstructed in this grand and sweeping tragedy. The narrator, René, is an aspiring filmmaker who theorizes on history, art, cinema, literature and the nature of the auteur. In a modern nod to The Great Gatsby, René relays the story of his neighbor Nero Golden, an Indian immigrant and widower with a mysterious past and ostentatious amount of wealth. René earns the man's trust, befriends his three sons--Petya, Apu and D--but becomes dangerously entangled in family affairs when Nero's new wife, Vasilisa, makes an offer he can't refuse.

Throughout the novel, René is making a probing film about the Golden family. At the heart of his endeavor is the question of identity, particularly American identity. Nero Golden builds a new persona for himself in the U.S., but his past life and business dealings with the criminal underground in India catch up to him in a series of tragic reckonings. His story unfolds against the 2016 presidential election, which Rushdie satirizes to devastating effect.

The closest Rushdie gets to answering questions of identity--of reality versus caricature--is a refreshing humanism found in the story's final moments. "Humanity was the only answer to the cartoon," René surmises. "I had no plan except love." The Golden House is a literary and philosophical tour de force. It is a new classic born of troubled times. --Scott Neuffer, writer, poet, editor of trampset

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