Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Rushdie's 'Golden House' Is a 'Great Gatsby' for the Trump Era

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Rushdie's 'Golden House' Is a 'Great Gatsby' for the Trump Era

Article excerpt

Nero Golden, a mysterious millionaire, arrives by limousine at the grandest mansion in New York's Macdougal-Sullivan Gardens Historic District "a place of happy retreat from the disenchanted, fearful world beyond its borders."

With him are his three sons, Petronius, Lucius Apuleius, and Dionysus, and soon arrives Vasilisa, a calculating Russian beauty several decades his junior.

Ren, an aspiring filmmaker living with his parents nearby, is enthralled. What tragedy propelled them here, Indian men reinvented with names of Roman emperors? What is the source of their riches?

Weaving observation and speculation, Ren studies the Goldens in an attempt to craft his voyeurism into a film script and finds himself entangled in their increasingly tragic lives.

Away from the Gardens, another exclusive house opens for new tenants. As the Goldens walk into their mansion, the Obamas walk into the White House. It's 2008, and from the vantage point of the Gardens, still easy to dismiss the allegations that Obama was secretly Muslim, "that trumped-up birth certificate crap" as an obscure fringe.

Ren intellectualizes social issues transgender bioethics, autism, Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street often through the lens of the Goldens. What is most urgent to him at least for much of the novel is getting his script written.

Indeed, it's often hard to feel close to Ren. We're behind him, watching as he stares at the Goldens through pop culture and high art. His narrative voice favors winding sentences thick with references, and readers generally familiar with (among many other things) French New Wave cinema, Russian folklore, comic books, Bollywood, the poems of T.S. Eliot, and the auteurs of world cinema or at least a patience for this sort of thing may find Ren more endearing than pretentious.

Ren also likes to rhapsodize about the America of his time, and, like long asides about the work of Ingmar Bergman, this too can be wearying. Certainly Rushdie is one of the finest prose stylists of our time, and perhaps one of our sanest voices; Ren's soliloquies are impassioned, their phrases finely turned. They also feel like a weary distillation of every editorial since the 2016 primaries. …

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