"The Ground Beneath Her Feet"

      Salman Rushdie

      Henry Holt and Company

      575 pages


Reviewed by Lee Klein leeklein98@yahoo.com



"The Ground Beneath Her Feet" is a retelling of the Orpheus myth in the post-modern guise of an inverse roman a clef of current history. Everybody is along for the ride Ahmet Ertegun, Elvis Presley, John Lennon, Andy Warhol etceteras. It is the story of post-partition India invading the musical superculture, the jet stream upon which cultures actually interface.


This is the story of great love- love that will overcome all. Yet, it is not a tale so grand as to delve into unbelivability. It is believable because Rushdie has taken what he does and simply placed it somewhere else.


The older Ormus Cama and the younger Vina Aspara meet as young people, fall in love, are seperated, form seperate musical identities, and through tragedy are brought back together to form V.T.O one of the most popular music acts of the day.


The story begins in the Tequila state of Mexico the day Vina perishes in an earthquake. As was Eurydice and Persephone before her she is lowered into the depths of the Earth never to be found. It ends after Ormus has made a symbolic orphic journey uniting with a Vina lookalike he has stalked. He tours with her fronting V.T.O and soon afterwards is killed in front of his Upper West Sise appartment house in a strange play upon the fate of John Lennon.


Indeed this shadowing of dual existances or of actual doubles is a key ingrediant in this book, as it is in many of the author's previous volumes. Ormus in sung famous songs before they are released by his twin brother Gayomart who died at birth, Vina is paralleled by a mysterious woman Maria and so on and so forth. Everything and everyone exists in an interelated world of cause and effect, of fiction and non-fiction, and in a sort of unattributed whirlpool of karma.


What I most like about this book is what I also admired in Star Wars episode One the Phantom Menace, that as far as the the film seems actual rather than contrived. In that it would seem that George Lucas would pull out all the stops but instead he constructed it to remain the part of the five film opus it is. So therefore the story begins where it begins, ends where it ends, and ends where it begins.


This books suggests the Orpheus myth but never while quoting it attempts to directly recreate it. Meanwhile, Rushdie remains the master stylist of the post colonial subcontinental or his post-partition rendition of the human condition. Here then is a passage where the social hopes and longings of Ormus and Vina's friend Rai's parents are expressed as their house goes up in flames"Up in smoke it went. Stripped of posessions, memories, and happiness, we thought of the touch of the falling ashes on our cheeks as our home's final caress. Eyewitnesses to the blaze itself had said it had loved the dying house, hugging it tightly, so that for a few instants Villa Thracia seemed to be recreated in flame. Then smoke, black, unfeeling smoke, took over the illusion was destroyed, and darkness covered all."


In another passage he describes the grand financial ruse of an indian Millionaire fabricating false heards of cattle saying"the creative imagination posessed by a great scam artist is of a high order, one can't help but admire. What surrealist boldness he displays in the conception of his deceits; what high wire daring, what mastery of illusion in their execution!


Finally it is by no accident via the post Frank O'Hara ability to name drop, which is the only way to truly undo gambits and to tell th truth, that this novelist recreates Andy Warhol in the guise of Amos Voight (not to mention mimicing Pat Hackett's parenthetical denotation of the pop artist's incidental expenditures). This paen to Warhol from one of the great writers of the day proves the Warhol diaries continuing importance and their future role as a yardstick as to how his age will be remembered.