NR Digital

Sterile Cleverness

by Stefan Beck

The Golden House, by Salman Rushdie (Random House, 400 pp., $28.99)

When a novel buttresses itself with not one but three A-list epigraphs (Pliny, D. H. Lawrence, Truffaut); when it opens, with references to the mortgage bubble, ISIS, and assassination fears, on the day of Obama’s inauguration; and when it bears the mythically grandiose title, “The Golden House” it has set itself a herculean feat not to be at best a letdown and at worst an embarrassment. When it borrows its template from The Great Gatsby and then, as a sop to discussion groups, mentions Jay Gatz by page twelve, it has charted a course toward the sun on wings of Kleenex. Make that Semtex.

The term for this in tragedy is “hubris,” which is the sort of thing that Salman Rushdie’s narrator, a young aspiring auteur named René (“Call me René,” he says, before trying to justify this superfluous Melvillean allusion), shouldn’t spend so much time explaining to the reader.

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