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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > December 2017 > All that glitters

All that glitters

Salman Rushdie’s grandiose New York novel should come with an excess baggage fee, argues Sarah Churchwell

The Golden House by Salman Rushdie (Jonathan Cape, £18.99)

The Golden House, Salman Rushdie’s latest novel, comes with a press release that quotes it being described as a “Great Gatsby for our times.” It’s clear why a publicist was keen to promote such high praise; less easy to understand why anyone who has read both novels would make the comparison. True, their themes are broadly similar: both are about a fabulously wealthy man who acquires an assumed name and tries to remake himself in New York while hiding the criminal sources of his wealth. Both satirise the garishness and vulgarity of America, and feature glamorous parties. Both broadly concern unrequited love—and the resemblance pretty much ends there.

For all its thematic focus on excess, in formal terms Gatsby is marked by restraint. It is lyrical, condensed, even elliptical. The Golden House spills over with surplus, from epigraphs in triplicate, to proliferating adverbs and adjectives, from characters battling across multiple storylines through an avalanche of allusions, which themselves range from Telemachus to Tim Burton, from Leonard Cohen to GK Chesterton, from Moby-Dick to Goethe. Werner Herzog makes a cameo; two-thirds of the way through, Donald Trump pops up like a jack-in-the-box and begins to dominate everything in as abrupt and senseless a way as he has in real life.

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In Prospect’s December issue: Adam Posen, Diane Coyle and Nicolas Véron examine the state of Britain’s economy with Brexit looming and suggest that with a large part of the City looking to move and with productivity remaining low the outlook is firmly negative. Posen suggests that the only thing capable of disciplining the Brexit economy is the reality that things are going to be worse. Coyle suggest that although Brexit will hamper Britain’s productivity, the problem is long-term. Véron argues that more than a tenth of the City’s business will disappear due to Brexit—a significant slice that will be difficult to cover off. Elsewhere in the issue: Steve Bloomfield uncovers what is going on at Dfid, the struggling government department that recently lost its Secretary of State. Nick Cohen looks at the rise of the Strong Man is Eastern Europe as Viktor Orbán clamps down on society and Lizzie Porter reports from Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan, a region plagued by war and political instability.