Great Writer Who Was Greater

The ground beneath Salman Rushdie's feet is shifting. He emerged from his fatwa-induced state of siege last September, giving up his place as embattled champion of free expression in time to prepare for a mammoth publicity tour for his new book, released in April. The Ground Beneath Her Feet, in which Rushdie recasts the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice into the world of rock-and-roll, was supposed to be his claim to a piece of the vast American literary soil. It was supposed to be his chance to show the crowd of upstart South Asian writers what the master could do, and score a bestseller in the process.

But none of that has happened. Instead, Rushdie has ridden a brief wave of rave reviews that has not quite translated into blockbuster sales, leaving him now to occupy the uncomfortable position of a writer whose best work appears to be behind him. "He is a great writer, and earlier he was a greater writer," said Nina Mehta, a critic who reviewed Mirrorwork, Rushdie's selective anthology of Indian literature, for Newsday in New York.

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Himal Southasian