it's depressing to watch one of the world's greatest living writers slumming. That's precisely what Salman Rushdie appears to be doing in Fury.The slim, slight novel traces the life of a British South Asian professor, Malik Solanka, who creates a wildly successful miniature doll, Little Brain. When Brain's all-consuming popularity finally eclipses Solanka's celebrity, he flees his wife and young child, moves to Manhattan, falls in love with a beautiful young woman and begins to live the full-throttle life of a New Yorker.
The story, as sharp-tongued British commentators have gleefully pointed out, is a familiar one. Rushdie himself quit England last year, abandoning his wife and new child for a sexy model and becoming a staple in New York's self-perpetuating celebrity culture.
Rushdie spends much of Fury attempting to explain why someone would do such a thing. Initially, it's interesting, at least in a voyeuristic way. He's still a phenomenally powerful writer even if his famously extravagant prose is here lavished on descriptions of the mundane.
Quickly, however, Fury's fire goes cold. An interlocking story about Solanka's new science fiction endeavours goes nowhere, and Rushdie's desire to seem of the moment by riffing on tabloid Americana -- Elian Gonzalez, Al Gore, Destiny's Child and the thousands of different kinds of chocolate bars available -- seems cheap, tawdry and instantly forgettable.
There's none of the vast, brain-scrambling storytelling at which Rushdie is a master.
Instead, we get a transplanted Londoner griping about the cacophony of urban America, where boom boxes rattle windows, taxi drivers curse endlessly and the noise seems unbearable.
It's occasionally thrilling but often depressing. Rushdie can do much better.
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FURY by Salman Rushdie(Knopf), 272 pages, $34.95 cloth. Rating: NN