I have another shameful confession: Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights is the first novel by Salman Rushdie I’ve ever read.
Just like with Margaret Atwood, the absence of his other work in my reading history is another one of my biggest gaps.
And just like with Ms. Atwood, I wish I’d read some of his other work first.
I spent some time thinking about how to write a review of this book, how best to sum it up. Then I came across the New York Times review of it and realized that I can’t put it any better than they did. So I’m going to be horribly lazy and just link to theirs:
Salman Rushdie’s ‘Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights’
by Marcel Theroux (posted on October 2, 2015)
All I would add to this is the fact that Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights sent me to sleep more reliably than just about anything I’ve ever read. I never got through more than 10-15 pages without drifting off. It took me five days to read this book. It shouldn’t have taken me five days—the book’s not that long and it’s not a difficult text. The reason it took me five days to read is because I fell asleep every. single. time I sat down with it.
The novel isn’t dry or boring. It’s not dull. But there’s something about the language—the rhythm and cadence, the tonality—which functions as a powerful soporific. And while the novel isn’t dull, I wouldn’t characterize as it as terribly compelling, either.
There’s one thing in particular about both Mr. Rushdie’s Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights and also Ms. Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last which strikes me as odd for authors of this caliber:
One of the fundamental axioms of good writing is, “Show, don’t tell.”
In other words, don’t tell me what you think I should know about a character; rather, let me observe them as they reveal themselves through their actions. For example, telling the reader that a character is feeling sad is far less powerful than showing them as they work through their grief (without overt authorial editorializing).
Both of these works from Mr. Rushdie and Ms. Atwood do a whole lot of telling and not nearly enough showing. Both of them indulge in rather a lot of authorial editorializing. That tells me that both of these stories were underdeveloped. Neither of these stories was quite ready to be written down yet.
Again, just like with Ms. Atwood, I still plan to read Mr. Rushdie’s more renowned novels and fill in this gap in my reading history. I fully expect his other work to impress me better.