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Read Along

Midnight’s Children Read-Along Part 1: Week 1 Wrap-up, Week 2 begins (19 to 25 November 2010)

We are at week 2 of the read-along now.

This is perhaps the first time I have to write a short review mid-way reading a novel, and I find it challenging as many ideas at this point are a lump of clay, without a form nor structure. Bina was very quick to post her first thought and she has decided to finish every week with a section of the book (i.e. Book 1, Book 2, Book 3). I have no idea what she is talking about, imagine my surprise when I arrived at page 142+ and bumped into the division and end of Book 1 of Midnight’s Children!! LOL :D.

I am one reader who avoid reading table of content, introduction of a novel and anything else that might give away a clue about the story and just plunge straight into reading the main! This is no help of course in this case, I should have known the novel is subdivided by 3 sections and I should have set some targets. What about if I say we should have completed Book 1 by now and split Book 2 into two weeks’ read and finish off the final week with Book 3? If you need more time just let me know, I am more than happy to extend a few more days at the end of 13 December. I can’t wait to read all of your final reviews!

You are more than welcome to include spoilers in the read-along, but don’t get too far ahead than the weekly target. 😉

Now for Week 1 Wrap-up thoughts…………

It is the end of week one, this week I had the pleasure to read many introductory posts about the read-along and get to know your motivations behind reading the Midnight’s Children.

Wilfrid tells everyone out there who is listening how this read-along idea was first germinated. Even though he is daunted by Salman Rushdie’s novels, he has this urge to grind through it with the support of everyone here. Wilfrid thinks it is always good to have a handful of visible companions while finding his ways in this mental jungle of his.  Monthly page-views mean little if none translates into a visible dialog, a visible relationship. Wilfrid invites his circle of friends to come join us.

Read here and find out how the idea was first conceived.

Wilfrid has subsequently posted the first week wrap-up in interesting thoughts and details, see here.

Bina wonders why she is so intimidated and reluctant to pick the book up? because she really enjoys it! Bina reads well ahead of me and before I discovered the non-linearity of the book, she has introduced us to the unreliable and fragmented narration of Saleem Sinai, fragmentation of Saleem’s personal and family history and the fragmentation of India. Bina is curious to know whether Rushdie will show if there is a place for both tradition and modernism, or if he will take the more realistic or pessimistic stand and have modernism wipe out “the old ways”. This ties in with the theme of east versus west and the problems of belonging (which are no doubt quite autobiographical of Rushdie) which are manifold. But Bina will talk about these aspects next week. Stay tuned.

And did you notice Padma’s interruption in the thick of the story? Bina constantly compares her reactions with Padma’s and look forward to the moment when Saleem will “take over” his story.

Read Bina’s full thoughts here.

Rob rarely re-read a novel, but he is willing to read the Midnight’s Children again to see how much he could remember and if he still feels the same way after reading this novel for the second time. Rob also compares this with Satanic Verses and thinks both show the tension within India and applied magic realism to the storytelling, but not sure why one book caused a stir and the other did not. In his recollection Midnight’s Children is less offensive but it could be a result of more tolerance a decade on. I have finished Book 1, and found a statement of two which borders on condescending description of a religious practice, but without finishing Midnight’s Children and Satanic Verses, I won’t be in the position to say which is more offensive but I am curious to know. Rob is taking this opportunity to know if he should revisit Rushdie’s work or move on to other authors, after all life’s too short and too much to read and so little time.

Rob has more to say here.

As for me, ……

It was a pleasant surprise to find Midnight’s Children such a delightful read. I was swept up by Aadam Aziz’s (Saleem’s grandfather) life story and his big nose. Rushdie made me laugh and at the same time I felt the need to be solemn about the grim history of India’s conflict behind the characters’ lives. It is a strange combination, but one that works very well as it brings me through the peak and trough  of emotion and certainly promises a roller coaster ride, hopefully till the end.

I found Padma quicker to react, before I could suss out how I feel, Padma’s words quicker than lightning have already said what I needed to say or haven’t thought about it yet. I like to believe many of the anecdotes are autobiographical and it is Rushdie’s intention to disguise the real with the unreal (magic realism) to give it a fable like so that none of the characters he alluded to in his personal life would be offended…. except his father.

In my Vintage classic edition, Rushdie’s 2005 introduction says “My father was so angry about the character of ‘Ahmde Sinai’ that he refused to speak to me for many months; then he decided to ‘forgive’ me, which annoyed me so much that for several more months I refused to speak to him.” Rushdie’s sister Sameen, whose nickname was really “The Brass Monkey” was happy with the use of his raw material. Rushdie’s mother understand that it was “just a story – Saleem isn’t you, Amine isn’t me, they’re all just characters” thus demonstrating that her level head was a lot more use than Rushdie’s father’s Cambridge University education in English Literature! Rushdie used his £700 advance to travel to India to write this novel after publishing his first, Grimus, and finished the Midnight’s Children in 1979 and quit his job from Ogilvy and Mather, where he was a copywriter.

Some of my favourite passage from the book so far:

Amina, her mind clogged up with Nadir Khan and insomnia, found she couldn’t naturally provide Ahmed Sinai with these things (unquestioned loyalty, unreserved and full-hearted love). And do, bringing her gift of assiduity to bear, she began to train herself to love him. To do this, she divided him, mentally into every one of his component parts…. she fell under the spell of perforated sheet of her own parents, because she resolved to fall in love with her husband, bit by bit. – page 87

Sonny Ibrahim and I were born to be friends – when we bumped our foreheads, Sonny’s forcep-hollows permitted my bulby temples to nestle within them, as snugly as carpenter’s joints. – page 169

All games have morals; and the game of Snake and Ladders captures, as no other activity can hope to do, the eternal truth that for every ladder you climb, a snake is waiting just around the corner; and for every snake, a ladder will compensate. – page 194

Rushdie writes so beautifully and thrillingly narrates historical event and building up the tension of Saleem’s birth and the impending independence of India. The tension slowly built to the day leading up to the strike of the clock at midnight when these two events happened and Saleem’s life and his nation’s history became twins. Saleem’s life was also changed forever by a mischievous act of Mary Pereira. From Book 2 onwards I will read in anticipation of how little Saleem’s upbringing was like and how he took over the history. Thrilling.

Keep the views coming. Comment it, blog it, “Mr. Linky” it, email it, we would like to hear about it.

Besides the 10 starting points for your discussion

This week in-depth discussion questions for Book 2 (estimated from page 150 to 350):

  1. “There is no escape from form” says Saleem (p. 226); and later, he speaks of his own “overpowering desire for form” (p. 317). Set against this is the chaos of Indian life which is described in such detail throughout the book. How is this coherence achieved? What role does mythology play in giving form to events in the novel?
  2. Saleem pleads, “…believe that I am falling apart.” (p. 37); he never arrives at a certain image of himself without being thrown into chaos again (e.g. p.164-165). But a child on an advertising hoarding is described as “flattened by certitude” (p. 153). Is there, then, value in uncertainty? What is it?
  3. What did Methwold represent? Why did he specify that nothing be changed in his houses?
  4. At the very heart of Midnight’s Children is an act of deception: Mary Pereira switches the birth-tags of the infants Saleem and Shiva. The ancestors of whom Saleem tells us at length are not his biological relations; and yet he continues to speak of them as his forebears. What effect does this have on you, the reader? How easy is it to absorb such a paradox?
  5. What kind of person is Saleem?

Enjoy the rest of the week. I’ll see you at Week 2 wrap-up next Friday, on the 26th of November.

If you like to share your thoughts or reviews from your blog at this point, share it on Mr. Linky!

We now have these wonderful people with us, there are altogether 16 of us (including myself):

Wilfrid Wong

Adrian of Reading Monk

Mel U of Reading Life

Bina of  “If you can read this”

Vishy of Vishy’s Blog

Jessica of Park Benches and Bookends

Stu of Winston’s Dad Blog

Rob McMonigal of Book Stew

Birdy of Life Word Smith

Pete Karnas of What You Read

Zee of My Wordly Obsessions

Madeleine at Madeleine at books and photos

Amy of Literary Quest

Heyzanie

Colleen of Books in the City

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About JoV

A bookaholic that went out of control.... I eat, sleep and breathe books. Well, lately I do other stuff.

Discussion

16 thoughts on “Midnight’s Children Read-Along Part 1: Week 1 Wrap-up, Week 2 begins (19 to 25 November 2010)

  1. Hello Jo … I intend to send in my response to the questions for the first 100 pages some time today or tomorrow. I hope I am not too late … hahaha.

    Posted by Wilfrid | November 19, 2010, 12:18 am
    • Hi Wilfrid, no you are not late, more than happy to hear what you think about it and how far you have got! You can use Mr. Linky and then drop us a comment. Can’t wait! 😉

      Posted by JoV | November 19, 2010, 10:37 am
  2. Hey Jo, good to know you’re enjoying it. It’s giving me more confidence to read it next year.

    One unrelated thing, I just noticed your feed has changed to partial feed (so it only shows partial content on feed reader). This is reader’s nightmare! Can you change it back to full feed please? 🙂 (I kinda assumed you didn’t know it has changed?)

    Posted by mee | November 19, 2010, 2:59 am
  3. I’m going to do a big review at the end rather than little ones but so far I am quite enjoying it.

    I thought this would be a really differcult book to get through as I once read a blog where the blogger couldn’t get past page ten! Its quite readable and I am able to get the characters straight in my head ok. For all of book one and alot of book two I kept thinking ‘well this is nice enough but where is this all going?’

    Part way through Book 2 and suddenly I can see the basics of a plot being put down and although I still don’t know exactly where its going with this, I am interested to find out.

    Posted by Jessica | November 19, 2010, 9:15 am
    • Welcome back from the holidays Jessica!! Hope you had lots of fun.
      Good for you Jessica! Now that I am halfway through the book, the magic realism had started to appear about the 1001 children who all have special gifts. It really does keep you wondering where this all is going. But if you think Rushdie wanted this to be sort of an autobiographical of his childhood, it’s easy to appreciate it and read all the funny things he and his friends did while they were growing up in Methwold Estate, including one involving Evie Burns.

      We will go along with the schedule then. 😉

      Posted by JoV | November 19, 2010, 10:41 am
  4. BTW I like your idea for the schedule

    Posted by Jessica | November 19, 2010, 9:16 am
  5. Great week 1 wrap-up post, Jo! Though I feel kind of self-conscious about seeing my stuff quoted 😀

    I can’t believe you never look at the table of contents, that’s so weird 😉 You had me thinking I was making the division up 😀 I started book 2 today on my commute and I think I’ll read till The Kolynos Kid (page 272 in my edition), which is kind of the middle of book 2.

    I agree with you that the story is grim but full of humour at the same time, and you never know what you’ll get next 🙂 Can’t wait to find out what happens, now that Saleem has finally been born.

    Posted by Bina | November 19, 2010, 1:04 pm
    • LOL.. I think I looked at the table of content, but my brain just decided not to register anything or any pages before the story begins. I think I had bad experience of reading literature commentary / introduction that always show up before the story, and it contains spoilers. For all you know, a table of content does give away clues of what will happen next. 😉

      Oh, I’m sorry if I made you self conscious. I’ll try a different approach next week. 😉

      Posted by JoV | November 19, 2010, 8:54 pm
      • Don’t worry, I’m just easily intimidated (even by my own writing) 😀 I liked this approach to get the gist of what everyone else was saying about their reading experience.

        I guess the table of contents does give a lot away, but I want to know what I’m getting into, structure-wise, whether it’s a good book to read on the commute etc. But it’s really interesting to learn that you try to avoid it 🙂

        Posted by Bina | November 20, 2010, 1:17 am
        • Bina, it’s comforting to know we are both up so late still on a Friday night. You replied this at 1:17am, and I’m still up at 2:44am!! 😦 I am intimidated too about my own writing! 😉 I better get some sleep. :O

          Posted by JoV | November 20, 2010, 2:45 am
  6. I’d love to join this, but I’m wondering if it will be tough for me to catch up since almost ten days of the readalong are over.

    Posted by Kals | November 21, 2010, 4:00 pm

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Pingback: Book 1 Of Midnight’s Children – Wrapping Up Week 1 Read-Along - November 21, 2010

  2. Pingback: Midnight’s Children Read-Along Part 2: Week 2 Wrap-up, Week 3 begins (26 November to 3 December 2010) « Bibliojunkie - November 26, 2010

  3. Pingback: End of Midnight’s Children Read-along, waiting for your reviews « Bibliojunkie - December 19, 2010

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Ratings Defined

0 = Abandon the book after first chapter

1 = Waste of paper, we will see what the environmentalist say about this!

2 = Skip it, read the book if you have got nothing better to do

2.5 = An average book, easily forgettable.

3 = A good read.

3.5 = A good entertaining read, a page-turner

4 = So glad that I read the book, a book with substance and invaluable for future reference

4.5 = So glad that I read the book, would pester everyone to read it, invaluable, I would want to own it and wouldn't mind a second read (something that I seldom do)

5 = The book is so good that I feel like I am on scale 4 and 4.5, and more, it blew me away and lingers on my head for weeks!

Books Read

JoV's bookshelf: read
Hold Tight
The Fault in Our Stars
The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon
The Thief
Mockingjay
Catching Fire
A Tale for the Time Being
Into the Darkest Corner
The Liars' Gospel
Goat Mountain
Strange Weather In Tokyo
Strange Shores
And the Mountains Echoed
Ten White Geese
One Step Too Far
The Innocents
The General: The ordinary man who became one of the bravest prisoners in Guantanamo
White Dog Fell from the Sky
A Virtual Love
The Fall of the Stone City


JoV's favorite books »
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Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking. - Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

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