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A mesmerizing new novel from New York Times bestselling author Salman Rushdie, set in New York City against the backdrop of modern American politics and culture with dark glamour and intrigue reminiscent of The Great Gatsby.
On the day of Barack Obama’s inauguration, an enigmatic, powerful billionaire from foreign shores takes up residence in “the Gardens,” a sheltered, gated community in New York’s Greenwich Village. The neighborhood is a bubble within a bubble, and the residents are immediately intrigued by the eccentric Golden family. One of these said neighbors and our guide is René, an ambitious young filmmaker, who befriends the mysterious family in an artistic opportunity to make them the subject of what he hopes will be his career-making film.
Nero Golden lives with his three adult sons: agoraphobic, alcoholic Petya, a brilliant recluse with a tortured mind; Apu, the flamboyant artist, sexually and spiritually omnivorous; D, the youngest son, who harbors an explosive secret even from himself; and a Russian beauty named Vasilisa, who comes along and seduces Nero with high aspirations of her own. René is quickly drawn into their inner circle, becoming privy to their tortured secrets, infidelities and crimes.
Outside “the Gardens,” America is facing radical political change—the rise of the Tea Party, identity politics, and backlash against political correctness. While on the brink of a new presidency, an insane, narcissistic presidential candidate known as only The Joker grows stronger and stronger, and the country is turned upside-down.
Salman Rushdie is the author of twelve previous novels – including the controversial The Satanic Verses, Haroun and The Sea of Stories, The Moor’s Last Sigh, The Ground Beneath Her Feet, Fury, Shalimar the Clown, The Enchantress of Florence, Luka and the Fire of Life, and Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights—and one collection of short stories: East, West. He has also published four works of nonfiction—Joseph Anton, The Jaguar Smile, Imaginary Homelands, and Step Across This Line—and co-edited two anthologies, Mirrorwork and Best American Short Stories 2008. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and a Distinguished Writer in Residence at New York University. A former president of PEN American Center, Rushdie was knighted in 2007 for services to literature.
Following is a partial account of an interview with Rushdie. Check online at The Central Voice for full interview after Sept. 11.
Central Voice: What did you hope to achieve with the Golden House?
Salman Rushdie: I wanted to tell a good story. My previous novel was kind of a fairy tale deal and I thought I would try to write an opposite novel with a large, panoramic view, a social realist novel. So that was my starting point.
CV: So that was your use of realism with references to film, the arts and literature?
SR: Yes, I was trying to make a portrait of a particular moment in American life, the last eight years or so. The story takes place in New York City and I try to smell what’s in the air. That was one part. The other part is a story about this crazy family which I probably had in my head for a while before I even had the family come to New York. I just brought the two together.
CV: Is Nero Golden a composite?
SR: He comes from the particular background of the Indian Super Rich. I know some of those people. Nero is not based on someone in particular but he is also not a composite. I think he’s pretty much himself.
CV: All great cultures have their mad men. Rome, Germany, now the US? Is this our post-Cold War dark age?
SR: It’s certainly darkened pretty fast in the last six months. I’d actually thought the last eight years, for a lot of reasons, were a time of considerable optimism. And the changing of that optimism of 2008 to its antithesis in the present is wat I was trying to capture.
CV: Regarding Muslims and the GLBT communities in Muslim nations, are there divisions below the surface? For a few, some, many are same-sex relations are okay? Do queers represent the Decadent West? So they must be thrown from buildings, stoned, honor killed by family?
SR: I think there’s a lot of prejudice and people in the transgender community face obstacles.
I grew up in Bombay and where there’s always been quite a substantial transgender community. I’ve spent time in that community listening to their stories and hearing the convictions of their lives. That was for me one of the starting points to start writing about an increasingly sexual subject of gender identity. Here in New York, I’ve had a couple of friends who have transitioned. One in each direction, male to female and female to male. That’s been another starting point for me.