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on 21 October 2011
The question of identity; both in a geographical, cultural and personal sense, has always been at the heart of Rushdie's works, and nowhere more so, than in 'East, West'. Containing nine short stories (three from 'East', three from 'West' and three from 'East, West'), this is a book which deals with everything from immigration and religious fanaticism, to the identity of Shakespeare's Yorick, and Neil Sedaka songs; with the results ranging from sublime, to decent. The 'East' stories are of a more straightforward nature than their 'West' counterparts, but are also more successful - bringing together superb imagery, musings on tradition and religion, and creating some memorable characters; whereas the tales of 'West', whilst interesting to analyse and dissect, trip over themselves in a manner slightly too self-conscious and convoluted. That said, they still provide an interesting counterpart to the other two sections, and are far from being without merit, in and of themselves.

The final of the book's three sections, 'East, West', is definitely the book's best; especially 'The Courter', the final and longest tale, which deals primarily with the unspoken love between the brain-damaged 'Mixed-Up', and the Indian migrant 'Certainly Mary', as well as it's narrator's own teenage heartbreaks, set to a soundtrack of Sam Cooke singles and Roy Orbison's soulful vocals. Fans of Rushdie will undoubtedly find much to like in 'East, West', even if it understandably lacks some of the epicly powerful scope and oustanding characterisation seen in longer texts, such as 'Midnight's Children' and 'Shalimar the Clown'. For the uninitiated, this is also a good place to begin with Rushdie's works, a book that is readable, thought-provoking, and characteristic of Rushdie's idiosyncratic style.
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on 8 November 2010
East West is a short collection of short stories by Salman Rushdie. But there is nothing small or even limited about the themes they cover, nor anything bland about the palette Rushdie uses to colour his ideas. They were published in the mid-1990s, when the writer was deep into the confines of the fatwa that threatened his life. It is thus refreshing to reflect on the wide and poignant use of humour trough the collection.

The stories are enigmatically arranged in three groups entitled East, West and East-West. They thus form a kind of triptych. In East we visit territory well known to readers of Rushdie. He is in the sub-continent, addressing notions of tradition and culture, notions that are interpreted and reinterpreted by change, personal ambition and by familial and religious associations.

In West, Salman Rushdie presents Yorick's view of Hamlet and an encounter between Catholic Isabella and her hired man, Christopher Columbus. One is fiction superimposed on fact, while the other approaches the reader from the opposite direction. Both stories turn in on themselves, reverse roles and blur the distinctions between fact and fiction.

In East-West we find people in new contexts, away from home, inhabiting places unfamiliar to them. We meet people who impose private, personal structures on a wider experience that others share. Misunderstandings create their own new language, and fiction expresses and interprets a shared reality.

But what is continually astounding about these stories is the literary style that Salman Rushdie brings to almost every sentence. The pictures he draws are surreal, even hyper-real and yet utterly mundane, even prosaic at the same time. A change encounter with a particular object can evoke memory, visual allusion, lyrics from pop culture and tastes of what grandma used to cook. Then, in the next sentence, he can sustain the effect by unloading another bus-load of metaphors. The writing is arresting, but also beautifully fluid and entertainingly readable.

For anyone who has tried Salman Rushdie's novels and recoiled at the challenge of their density, I would recommend these stories as a taster in miniature of what the bigger experience can sustain. Once you are used to the style, it flows easily.
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on 9 November 2000
Rushdie highlights the similarities and differences between the cultures of the Eastern and Western Worlds delightfully. Many of the stories provide a refreshing message of hope and the endings usually brought a broad, satisfied grin to my face.
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East, West is the first collection of short stories by Salman Rushdie. There are nine stories, six of which have been published previously in magazines. In the East section: Good Advice Is Rarer Than Rubies, where a woman seeking a permit to London gets some good advice from an advice wallah, but uses it is a way he doesn't expect; The Free Radio, where a rickshaw driver maintains his faith in a government reward from the sterilisation clinic; and The Prophet's Hair, where we learn that crime, especially in the form of theft of a holy relic, definitely does not pay. These have a decidedly eastern flavour. In the West section: Yorick, an interesting prologue to Hamlet that Shakespeare scholars might well enjoy; At the Auction of the Ruby Slippers, a speculation on what might be auctioned in an alternate world; Christopher Columbus and Queen Isabella of Spain Consummate Their Relationship, a speculation of what Columbus endured at the Spanish court. Finally, in the East, West section: The Harmony of Spheres, which explores a friend with schizophrenia, and has quite a twist in the tail; Chekov and Zulu, which looks at Indian diplomats in Britain during the time of Indira Ghandi's assassination and has very much the flavour of the Satanic Verses; and The Courter, a delightful tale of romance, cartoons and chess in the elderly, which has a slightly sinister edge to it. Rushdie's mastery of the language means these are filled with wonderful prose. His mock-Shakespearean and mimic-Indian are particularly entertaining. If there was not an autobiographical touch in The Harmony of Spheres and especially in The Courter, then these are certainly written from close experience, and are definitely my favourites.
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on 13 January 2016
Some good reading but a bit difficult to relate to the Indian perspective/language of some of the stories. Otherwise, enjoyable enough
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on 2 February 2009
An interesting collection of Short Stories which start in Rushdie's East, migrate to the West and end in a mix of the two. His writing is infectious and his stories varied and his imagination incredible.

I'd say this collection is hit and miss however. Certain of the stories are excellent, thought provokingly allegoric, naive yet profound. Others however suffer from a layering of convolution where a less fragmented approach to story telling may well have served him Rushdie well.

It is difficult to criticise one so revered but when for the most part here and elsewhere of course Rushdie is beyond talented and possesses an imagination which is an absolute pleasure to read - it's just that perhaps here isn't the best place to start (though it wouldn't be the worst!)
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on 5 November 2009
Quite simply, Salman Rushdie is one of the best writers of our time, and perhaps of all time. His stories are pure beauty on a page. Readers will want to go back time and time again.
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