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Salman Rushdie's Quichotte (2019) is a chaotic bunch of things neatly woven together. In places (separately or simultaneously) a picaresque adventure, a satire, surrealist fiction, metafiction, a family drama, et cetera, we're reminded a few times that this is "the Age of Anything-Can-Happen." And many anythings do. Hans Christian Andersen gives romantic advice, angry mastodons stomp through town, a cricket counsels in Italian, a revolver speaks, the NEXT portal seems to promise escape from the end of the world. Lots, lots more⁠—a whirlpool sucked up by a whirlwind.

An accurate plot summary would be hard to do, since the author (Rushdie) wrote a story about an author (Sam DuChamp, or Brother) writing a story about a traveling salesman (Ismail Smile, or Quichotte) of sublingual fentanyl, and a son imagined into "reality" by Quichotte. Parallels between the lives and worlds of Brother and Quichotte come to be, about the same time surreal elements, like green-suited mastodons, enter the narrative. These two different fictional worlds or layers blend together in hindsight, especially towards the end of the novel (for me anyway), and the—how shall I refer to him, overarching?—narrator suggests early on that this blending or confusion could happen.

The book is entertaining and hilarious and plugged into today, and also sad when it deals with family relationships, and then poignant when you peel away the meta layers and the satire and see the "Errorism in America," as Salma R's team refers to some of the contemporary issues that the main narrator, or Rushdie, also approaches here (the anti-vaxxers, the climate loonies, the news paranoiacs, the UFOlogists, the president, the religious nuts, the birthers, the flat-earthers, the censorious young, the greedy old, the trolls, the dharma bums, the Holocaust deniers, the weed-banners, the dog lovers (she hated the domestication of animals), and Fox).

I enjoyed it, but it was a rough ride for all the terrain and turns.


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